California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter said that as an artillery officer, his unit “killed probably hundreds of civilians” during his 2004 tour in Fallujah, Iraq.
During a Barstool Sports interview for a podcast that was released on Monday, Hunter defended his support of Eddie Gallagher, a Navy SEAL facing a premeditated murder charge in the stabbing death of an injured person in Iraq. President Donald Trump is considering pardoning Gallagher.
“I was an artillery officer, and we fired hundreds of rounds into Fallujah, killed probably hundreds of civilians, if not scores, if not hundreds of civilians,” Hunter said. “Probably killed women and children, if there were any left in the city when we invaded. So do I get judged, too?”
When pressed on a specific killing differing from collateral damage, Hunter argued that it was simply a matter of how people were killed.
Gallagher’s alleged victim “might have been killed in a way that you don’t personally agree with, because you say it’s against the laws of war,” Hunter said. “As opposed to artillery killing civilians, women and children, because it’s kind of indiscriminate in a way. It’s not a sniper weapon, right. Which is worse?”
Among the accusations against Gallagher are that he stabbed and killed a wounded person, shot at noncombatants, posed for a photo and performed his re-enlistment ceremony next to a corpse, according to a charge sheet from November. Lawyers in the courtroom said earlier this year that the male stabbing victim in question was an ISIS fighter, who witnesses told investigators appeared to be about 15.
Hunter said that after viewing relevant photos and video from the prosecution and speaking to other SEALs who served with Gallagher, he didn’t believe the charges nor care if the alleged ISIS fighter was killed.
“I frankly don’t care if he was killed, I just don’t care,” Hunter said, adding that, “even if everything that the prosecutors say is true in this case, then, you know, Eddie Gallagher should still be given a break, I think.”
Hunter has stirred controversy with his defense of Gallagher before, saying earlier this week that he had taken a photo with an enemy corpse and that many other service members had done so.
The California Republican won re-election in November despite facing indictment on federal corruption charges after allegedly misusing campaign funds. He and his wife have both pleaded not guilty to the charges and are currently awaiting trial.
CNN’s Zachary Cohen, Paul Vercammen, Nick Watt and Dakin Andone contributed to this report.