The Truth About Martha McSally

The senate race between Democrat Mark Kelly and Republican incumbent Martha McSally has captured the attention of many Americans, and for good reason. A victory for Kelly could indicate a flip for the formerly red state of Arizona, and the outcome of this intense race could determine which party has control of the senate.

McSally, a former Air Force Colonel, served two terms in the House of Representatives beginning in 2014, before losing the 2018 Senate election to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema. McSally was ultimately appointed to her current seat in the senate by Governor Doug Ducey after Jon Kyl, the late Senator John McCain's successor, resigned (per Fox News). That move was controversial and John McCain's daughter and The View co-host Meghan McCain posited, "She didn't win that seat. I think that's important. She didn't earn it, I mean in the traditional sense with votes" (per AZ Central). 

Still, McSally's appointment was a moment in history; Sinema was the first woman ever to serve in the senate on behalf of the state of Arizona (via the Associated Press), making McSally the second. A deep dive into Martha McSally's life reveals she's no stranger to making history, although she's certainly faced challenges along the way. 

Martha McSally experienced sexual abuse as a teen

McSally, 54, first moved to Arizona in 1994, but she grew up in Rhode Island as the youngest of five kids (via Elle). Her father passed away from a heart attack when she was 12 — a tragedy that left a mark on McSally's teenage years. She turned to exercise as an outlet and eventually joined her all-girls Catholic high school's cross country and track teams. There, she developed a talent for throwing the javelin, which eventually earned her a recruitment to the Air Force Academy in Colorado.

Before she could branch out to pursue that path though, McSally says she endured sexual abuse from her high school track coach. She told The Wall Street Journal in 2018, "Even though he didn't physically force me, it certainly was an emotional manipulation." McSally confided in two adult women at the time, one of whom reported the abuse to the school, and the coach was immediately fired. He reportedly denied McSally's allegations. Unfortunately, this wasn't the last experience of its kind for McSally. The senator revealed at a 2019 hearing on sexual misconduct in the military that she had been "preyed upon and raped" by a superior officer during her time in the Air Force (per Fox News). McSally opened up about her experience in an effort "to stop military sexual assault for good," displaying tenacity that surely helped her attain other goals in life.

Martha McSally broke barriers in the military

When McSally began her time in the Air Force, she discovered women weren't privy to the same opportunities as their male counterparts. She explained to Elle, "So I find out when I get to the Academy that it's against the law for women to be fighter pilots, and I'm like, What? I'm going through the same training as you. I'm kicking a lot of these guys' a****, and somehow, just because I have ovaries, I can't be a fighter pilot?"

McSally graduated from the academy and went on to earn her master's degree in public policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. Then, in 1995, the trained pilot got her due. She earned her flight wings and, while serving in Iraq, became the first female U.S. fighter pilot to fly in combat. Later, in 2004, McSally accomplished another first while serving in Afghanistan, where she became the first woman to command a fighter squadron in active combat. 

Martha McSally sued the Department of Defense and won

During a tour of duty in Saudi Arabia, Martha McSally broke barriers again by reversing the U.S. military's requirement that U.S. servicewomen had to wear an abaya — the customary covering Saudi Arabian women wear to cover their bodies. According to the National Organization for Women, McSally elaborated on her complaint in an interview with 60 Minutes, saying, "I have to sit in the back and at all times I must be escorted by a male ... [who], when questioned, is supposed to claim me as his wife. I can fly a single-seat aircraft in enemy territory, but [in Saudi Arabia] I can't drive a vehicle." McSally sued U.S. Department of Defense over the requirement and won.

It's clear Martha McSally isn't afraid to stand up for what she believes in. At times though, her sharp tongue has rubbed onlookers the wrong way and sometimes, it's what she doesn't say that counts.

Martha McSally avoided an important question at the debate

Martha McSally made headlines in January of this year when CNN reporter Manu Raju asked whether she would consider new evidence in the impeachment trial of President Trump. McSally responded, "Manu, you're a liberal hack. I'm not talking to you" (per The Washington Post). When Fox News' Laura Ingraham asked if she regretted the slam, McSally showed no remorse and replied, "I'm a fighter pilot. You know, I called it like it is." 

She couldn't muster that same candor at the October 6th senate debate, though. When the interviewer asked whether McSally was proud of her past support of President Trump, the senator refused to answer (via Newsweek). Each time she was asked, McSally dodged the question and carried on talking about tax cuts. Pollster Matt McDermott tweeted what many were thinking, "Seriously, how is it possible that Martha McSally has been running for Senate for four years and isn't prepared to answer a question as easy as 'Do you like Trump?'"