FIRST ON FOX: A decorated military veteran and successful Republican businessman in Montana who’s considering a run for the Senate in 2024 against Sen. Jon Tester is taking aim at the Democratic incumbent over his comment that U.S. "farted around in the Middle East forever."
The comment is’t sitting well with Tim Sheehy, a former Navy SEAL and Purple Heart recipient who notched more than 200 missions in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and elsewhere around the globe.
Sheehy — the CEO of Bridger Aerospace, a Montana-based aerial firefighting and wildfire surveillance services company — is being urged by some in the nation’s capital to run for the Senate next year in a crucial race that could determine the chamber's majority.
"I was there, and I can promise you I wasn’t farting around," Sheehy said Thursday in a statement shared first with Fox News.
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Tester, who’s running for a fourth six-year term representing Montana in the Senate, made his comments in an interview published Sunday in the Daily Inter Lake, a Kalispell, Montana-based newspaper.
The farmer and former state lawmaker was expressing his backing of the Biden administration’s strong military support for Ukraine as it continues to defend itself after coming under attack from Russia over a year ago.
When asked if he was concerned that the war in Ukraine could go on for a long time, Tester answered: "That's another challenge… We farted around in the Middle East forever. And that's why at some point in time, there's a negotiated agreement, or this thing will escalate. Or we'll pull out."
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Sheehy said in his statement that "on 9/11 nearly 3,000 Americans were killed by Al Qaeda terrorists in the most brazen attack on the continental United States since the War of 1812. In response, millions of young men and women answered the call to ensure that an attack of that magnitude never happened again. In what became our nation’s longest war, over 7,000 American men and women gave the ultimate sacrifice."
"On Sunday, Senator Jon Tester described these wars as ‘farting around in the Middle East.’ I was there, and I can promise you I wasn’t farting around. As the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs’ Committee, Senator Tester should have a better vocabulary to use for our veterans," Sheehy argued.
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Tester is being heavily targeted by the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) as the GOP aims to flip the seat in a state former President Donald Trump carried by 16 points in 2020. Democratic held seats in heavily red West Virginia and Republican leaning Ohio are also top NRSC targets as Republicans aim to win back the Senate majority in next year’s elections.
A GOP source confirms to Fox News that Sheehy’s being encouraged to run by Montana’s other senator, Republican Steve Daines — who’s the NRSC chair this election cycle.
"Tim is a good friend and a great American," Daines said in a statement to Fox News.
A Republican strategist familiar with Sheehy’s thinking, who asked to remain anonymous to speak more freely, told Fox News that "people have been encouraging him to run and he's considering it, but no decisions have been made yet."
Republican sources tell Fox News that Sheehy is viewed as a candidate "right out of central casting" due to his military and business background, his status as a political outsider without a long trail of controversial votes or statements, and his ability to self-finance a campaign due to his personal wealth.
If Sheehy runs, he would potentially face off in what would be a competitive primary against Rep. Matt Rosendale, a hard-right congressman who’s seriously mulling a bid. During the 2020 GOP primary for the House seat, Rosendale had the backing of the deep-pocketed, anti-tax, conservative group Club for Growth.