Published Thursday, Sept. 30, 2010 | 1:57 p.m.
Updated Thursday, Sept. 30, 2010 | 2:01 p.m.
The man who served as commanding officer of the USS Cole when it was bombed in 2000 by Al Qaeda terrorists today endorsed Republican Joe Heck for Nevada's 3rd Congressional District.
Retired U.S. Naval Commander Kirk Lippold, of Carson City -- a controversial figure who has been both heralded and criticized for his actions surrounding the terrorist bombing -- praised Heck for bringing "strong, common sense leadership" to the state.
"Joe’s military service to our nation speaks volumes about his character and love of country," Lippold said. "He is a man who will bring much-needed principles and a clear vision to the United States Congress.”
Lippold was in charge of the Cole on Oct. 12, 2000 when the ship was attacked and bombed by Al Qaeda terrorists during a refueling stop in the Yemeni port of Aden. Seventeen U.S. sailors were killed, and the destroyer almost sank.
A Navy investigation concluded in 2001 that Lippold could not have prevented the attack and should not be punished. But five years later, Navy Secretary Donald Winter, who reviewed the case, said Lippold's actions before the attack "did not meet the high standard" expected of a commanding officer.
At the time of Winter's review, Lippold wanted to be promoted to the rank of Navy captain, a move that needed confirmation by the U.S. Senate. Winter ultimately determined that Lippold was "not the best and fully qualified for promotion to the higher grade."
Lippold was given a desk job following the bombing. After trying unsuccessfully for four years to get a promotion, he gave up and retired from the Navy in 2007.
Lippold now works for Military Families United, a non-profit military lobbying group.
“Commander Lippold is a leader whom I greatly admire and respect," Heck said. "Commander Lippold has stood with our troops in the face of war, and put his life on the line to defend our freedoms. I am humbled that he stands beside me today."
Heck added that he and Lippold "share similar conservative principals and values."
Lippold was rumored earlier this year to be considering a run for the U.S. Senate. He ultimately decided against entering the crowded Republican pool to challenge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.