Steve Bannon slams Romney for avoiding Vietnam draft, escalates intra-party war

  • Bannon rips Romney over Vietnam War at Alabama rally: "You avoided service, brother"
  • Attack is retaliation for Romney's denunciation of Senate candidate Roy Moore
  • Latest verbal spat demonstrates escalating war between what Bannon deems "anti-establishment" and "elite" Republicans
Steve Bannon speaks before introducing Republican Senatorial candidate Roy Moore during a campaign event at Oak Hollow Farm on December 5, 2017 in Fairhope, Alabama. Mr. Moore is facing off against Democrat Doug Jones in next week's special election for the U.S. Senate.
Joe Raedle | Getty Images
Steve Bannon speaks before introducing Republican Senatorial candidate Roy Moore during a campaign event at Oak Hollow Farm on December 5, 2017 in Fairhope, Alabama. Mr. Moore is facing off against Democrat Doug Jones in next week's special election for the U.S. Senate.

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon ripped into one-time presidential candidate Mitt Romney for his lack of military service during the Vietnam War in response to Romney's denunciation of Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore.

"By the way, Mitt, while we're on the subject of Vietnam and honor and integrity, you avoided service, brother," Bannon told a crowd during a Moore rally in Alabama on Tuesday. "You hid behind your religion. You went to France to be a missionary while guys were dying in rice paddies in Vietnam."

The attack follows a tweet by Romney lambasting Moore's candidacy, writing that "No vote, no majority is worth losing our honor, our integrity."

The former Massachusetts governor, a Republican, has repeatedly spoken out against Moore following numerous serious sexual assault allegations against the Alabama judge, including the sexual assault of minors. Nearly half a dozen women in recent weeks have accused Moore of pursuing sexual relationships with them when they were teenagers in the 1970s and 80s.

Moore denies the allegations and has continued his Senate run despite numerous calls to step down. President Donald Trump endorsed Moore's candidacy on Monday.

Romney, a devout Mormon, received a deferment from the draft on religious grounds and spent some of the Vietnam War years serving as a missionary in France.

Bannon went on to attack Romney's family, saying, "You ran for commander in chief, you had five sons, not one day of service in Afghanistan and Iraq. We have 7,000 dead and 52,000 casualties, and where were the Romneys during those wars?"

"You want to talk about honor and integrity, brother, bring it down here to Alabama."

Bannon, the firebrand executive chairman of right-wing news site Breitbart and an avid proponent of Trump, has promised to "send shockwaves" through what he deems "elite" media and political circles by putting "anti-establishment" candidate Alabama Republican Roy Moore in the Senate, with the wider aim of securing a Republican majority in 2018.

Bannon failed to note that Trump avoided military service thanks to five draft deferments between 1964 and 1972 — four for education and one for a medical exemption claiming bone spurs in his heels.

"I had a doctor that gave me a letter — a very strong letter on the heels," Trump told the New York Times in 2016, adding that the condition was "temporary."

Trump drew controversy in 2015 when he criticized Vietnam War veteran and Arizona Senator John McCain, who spent nearly six years enduring torture in a North Vietnamese prison after his plane crash landed in enemy territory.

"He's not a war hero," Trump said. "He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured."