War hero Scott O'Grady gets Trump's nod for defense post, squares off with critics
By ELIZABETH THOMPSON | The Dallas Morning News | Published: November 21, 2020
WASHINGTON (Tribune News Service) — President Donald Trump has nominated Texan Scott O'Grady, who once campaigned for state Senate, for assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs.
Following his nomination, the Dallas resident known for his career as a fighter pilot and war hero quickly came under fire on social media.
O'Grady made headlines in 1995, when his F-16 fighter was shot down over Bosnia. He survived in enemy territory for about a week before he was rescued by the U.S. Marines. O'Grady's story inspired his own book, Return with Honor, which was a New York Times best-seller, and the movie Behind Enemy Lines is loosely based on his experiences.
The war hero also received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for his service.
O'Grady moved to Texas about 20 years ago, and he ran as a Republican in a primary for a state Senate seat in Collin and Rockwall counties in 2012 against now-Attorney General Ken Paxton. O'Grady later suspended his bid, even after getting endorsements from former presidential candidate Ross Perot, former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach and retired Army Gen. Tommy Franks, who led the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. He now serves as the co-chair of Veterans for Trump.
Almost immediately after his nomination was announced Tuesday, O'Grady sparred with critics on Twitter.
In response to a journalist who tweeted that he "thought Trump didn't like fliers who got shot down," an allusion to Trump's criticism of war hero former Sen. John McCain of Arizona, O'Grady dared him to "tell me that in person."
He later sparred with Lincoln Project adviser and veteran Fred Wellman, who had criticized O'Grady on Twitter.
Yashar Ali, a freelance journalist who contributed to various publications, such as Huffpost, NBC News and New York Magazine called out the war hero for killing two elephants in a 2014 hunting trip in Zimbabwe.
The Obama administration issued a blanket ban on all Zimbabwe elephant trophies in 2014 because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was unable to determine that elephant hunting for sport would enhance conservation efforts. O'Grady testified before the House Committee on Natural Resources in favor of reversing the ban, arguing that hunting elephants for sport helps elephant populations in Africa.
In his testimony, O'Grady argued that "the American hunter is a part of the solution to protecting and preserving African elephant populations" and said the "greatest resource" for conservation efforts was the American hunter.
He provided documentation that he had killed two elephants as part of his testimony.
The Trump administration caused a public uproar on social media when it floated reversing the ban in 2017. Opponents to the legislation posted pictures of Trump's sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, posing with animals they had hunted.
The Trump administration later quietly lifted the ban in 2018.
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