- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 13, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst has clarified comments she made that critics say implied that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction at the time of the U.S. invasion of the country.

Ernst said in a statement Monday that she did not mean to suggest Iraq had such weapons at the time of the 2003 invasion, The Des Moines Register reported (https://dmreg.co/1gwyf8a ).

“I did not mean to suggest that Iraq had WMD at the time of invasion. It is clear they did not. What I was trying to say was that Iraq had had WMD in their past, and had even used them. My point was that we don’t know exactly what happened to those weapons.”

Ernst made initial comments about the subject during a meeting with the Register’s editorial board on Friday, saying: “We don’t know that there were weapons on the ground when we went in. However, I do have reason to believe there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq,” she said to the editorial board. “That was the intelligence that was operated on. I have reason to believe there was weapons of mass destruction. My husband served in Saudi Arabia as an Army Central Command sergeant major for a year, and that’s a hot-button topic in that area.”

Iowa Democratic Party officials later questioned her remarks in a news release, noting that President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have said that the intelligence on such weapons for justification of the war was wrong.

Iowa Democratic Party officials said in a news release Monday: “Iowans are left wondering: Does Joni Ernst disagree with President Bush and Vice President Cheney? If so, what information does she have, and can she share that information with the public? What information does Gail Ernst have from his experience in Saudi Arabia?”

Ernst is one of five candidates vying for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Tom Harkin, a long-serving Democrat. The primary is June 3.

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, https://www.desmoinesregister.com

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