Thursday, June 5, 2014 4:53 pm
WASHINGTON(AFP) – As controversy swirls in the United States over the release of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, several politicians have backtracked on their support of the soldier – at least if you check their Twitter feeds.
By Thursday, at least seven US politicians had deleted tweets praising Bergdahl amid a mounting backlash over the deal for his freedom that resulted in the release of five high-level Taliban operatives from Guantanamo Bay.
The online scrubbing highlights the growing concern over the possibility that the Taliban commanders could rejoin the fight, and anger over how the government of US President Barack Obama brokered the deal.
Bergdahl has also been accused by some in his own unit of being a deserter, sparking contempt.
But the Internet’s memory is a steel trap, with programs like Politwoops publishing messages posted on Twitter — and then deleted — by lawmakers from both parties.
“Welcome home, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. A grateful America thanks you for your service,” wrote senior Senate Republican Thad Cochran in a tweet that was removed Wednesday, according to Politwoops, which is run by the Sunlight Foundation.
Cochran, locked in a bitter re-election battle in conservative Mississippi, has since condemned the prisoner exchange as “a grave error.”
Republican congressman Jim Renacci hailed Bergdahl as “a true American hero” in a tweet this week that was later pulled.
Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst, who won her party’s primary race in Iowa Tuesday, tweeted her “thoughts & prayers” to Bergdahl and his family. She deleted the message 25 minutes later.
And House Democrat Stephen Lynch tweeted that it was “great to hear” of Bergdahl’s release, but that message disappeared too.
Many of the tweets were deleted Wednesday, at the height of a backlash against the swap, when lawmakers like Senator John McCain warned that the transfer of five extremists was too steep a price to pay.
Anti-Bergdahl rhetoric has turned ugly, with a Fox News host commenting that Bergdahl’s father Robert, who grew a long beard to gain sympathy from his son’s captors, looks “like a member of the Taliban.”