Howard Schultz apologizes after claiming he spent more time than 2020 military candidates

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Formerly Starbucks CEO Howard Schultzcontemplating setting up an independent bid for the presidency in 2020, apologized on Thursday, saying he probably had earned more time in the military than any of the candidates who entered the race and admitted that he was simply "wrong".

The flap again put Schultz, a billionaire without prior political experience, on the defense. Democrats have spent weeks attacking Schultz and blatantly worrying that an independent race would split their base and return White House back to President Trump.

Two Democratic Candidates Are Veterans: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard in Hawaii and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Gabbard served in Iraq with the Hawaii Army National Guard from 2004 to 2005, and Buttigieg is a veteran of the Afghanistan War and has had a tour with the Navy Reserve as intelligence officer.

Schultz made comments during an interview Thursday with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.

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"Do you consider yourself competent to run the US military?" Asked Hewitt.

"Yes, I do," replied Schultz. "I've spent more time – in the last decade, definitely – than someone is running for president, with the military. I've been to Okinawa. I've been to Kuwait. I have – with Marines, with the army. I've been on the national training center in the Mojave desert. "

Schultz also pointed out that he has "good friends" in the military, including retired gene. Stanley McChrystal and William McRaven, the retired Admiral who watched bin Laden's raid in Pakistan.

Soon after Schultz commented, Buttigieg tweeted he "didn't remember seeing any Starbucks" in Afghanistan, where he was posted in 2013.

"I can remember a green bean coffee at the Bagram exchange and a decent espresso machine run by the Italian NATO element on ISAF HQ," Buttigieg wrote. "But I can't remember seeing any Starbucks over there…"

Then Schultz tweeted that leaders must accept responsibility for errors and his comment "was wrong."

"I apologize @PeteButtigieg and @TulsiGabbard, who served our country honorably," Schultz wrote on Twitter. "At that moment, I did something that would unite us all about me. I made a mistake and I apologize."

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A flood of mocking posts seemed fast on social media. But earlier this week, Schultz indicated that he was aware that his campaign would be exposed to harsh critics and unknown future headwinds – and said the fight was worth the cost anyway.

"I refuse to be put off by the naysay," said Schultz, "because I love this country and because there is so much at stake."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.