Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean issued a mea culpa to military veterans for his comments related to the controversial new movie "American Sniper."
"This is something which I've almost never done in politics, I'll apologize to the veterans. I haven't seen the movie, and I think it was wrong," Dean, a Democrat, told msnbc's Chris Matthews on Tuesday. "I talked to a lot of people about it. I make no apologies to all the thousands of right-wing nut jobs who have been twittering me with nasty language, but I do apologize to the veterans."
"We owe them a lot, and I think this movie was much more nuanced than I thought," he added. "I have a lot of respect for the people who serve this country, and I apologize."
Dean allegedly faced criticism from conservatives after he said there might be an intersection between people seeing the new movie and members of the tea party.
"There's a lot of anger in this country, and the people who go see this movie are people who are very angry. This guy basically says, 'I'm going to fight on your side.' They bite for it," Dean said on Friday's "Real Time With Bill Maher." Maher, the show's host, had blasted Chris Kyle, calling him a "psychopathic patriot."
The Oscar-nominated film, directed by Clint Eastwood, is based on the true life of the late Chris Kyle, a U.S. Navy SEAL who deployed to Iraq four times. Kyle, played by actor Bradley Cooper, has been called the deadliest sniper in U.S. history because he had more confirmed kills than any other American sniper. He wrote an autobiography that also generated notable controversy. Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura sued Kyle, who was murdered in February 2013, and his estate over a story recounted in the book. The former professional wrestler won the case last July and was awarded $1.845 million in damages from Kyle’s estate.
Several outspoken liberals and conservatives have publicly weighed in on whether the film paints a picture of patriotism or whether it promotes war. In response to Dean, actor Gary Sinise on Monday said: "You certainly have a right to make stupid blanket statements, suggesting that all people who see this film are angry, but how is that helpful sir? Chris Kyle's story deserved to be told."
Actor Seth Rogen took to Twitter to criticize "American Sniper." Filmmaker Michael Moore called snipers "cowards." Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin responded to Moore by holding a sign that read “F— you Michael Moore.”
As the movie continues to spark heated debate, Eastwood over the weekended defended his work as anti-war.
“The biggest antiwar statement any film” can make is to show “the fact of what [war] does to the family and the people who have to go back into civilian life like Chris Kyle did," Eastwood said during the Producers Guild Award Nominees Breakfast on Saturday.
The movie was released on Jan. 16 and continues to lead at the box offices, despite the controversy. Last weekend, the film earned about $64.4 million, and grossed $200 million domestically.