Last week, Joe Biden told an emotionally compelling story about traveling to Afghanistan as vice president to pin a Silver Star on a Navy captain who felt like a failure when he triumphantly recovered the body of a fallen comrade.
Although Biden claimed to be speaking “God’s truth” and swore on his “word as a Biden” when he recalled the incident, an investigation conducted by the Washington Post revealed the story to be inaccurate.
When the South Carolina Post and Courier confronted Biden about the Post’s investigation, Biden claimed that although he had not yet read the investigation, he believed that he delivered the “essence of the story.”
"The essence — that there’s anything I said about that that wasn’t the essence of the story. The story was that he refused the medal because the fella he tried to save —and risked his life saving — died,” Biden told the Post and Courier on Thursday. “That’s the beginning, middle and end. The rest of you guys can take it and do what you want with it.”
In reference to the Washington Post investigation, Biden said, “I don’t understand what they’re talking about, but the central point is it was absolutely accurate what I said,” according to the Post and Courier. “He refused the medal, I put it on him, he said, ‘Don’t do that to me, sir. He died. He died.’”
As the Washington Post notes:
[A]lmost every detail in the story appears to be incorrect. Based on interviews with more than a dozen U.S. troops, their commanders and Biden campaign officials, it appears as though the former vice president has jumbled elements of at least three actual events into one story of bravery, compassion and regret that never happened.
Biden visited Konar province in 2008 as a U.S. senator, not as vice president. The service member who performed the celebrated rescue that Biden described was a 20-year-old Army specialist, not a much older Navy captain. And that soldier, Kyle J. White, never had a Silver Star, or any other medal, pinned on him by Biden. At a White House ceremony six years after Biden’s visit, White stood at attention as President Barack Obama placed a Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor, around his neck.
The upshot: In the space of three minutes, Biden got the time period, the location, the heroic act, the type of medal, the military branch and the rank of the recipient wrong, as well as his own role in the ceremony.
Biden’s comment about the “essence of the story” is reminiscent of the reaction Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) had during an interview with 60 Minutes, in which Anderson Cooper asked Ocasio-Cortez how she responds to critics who say her “math is fuzzy.”
As reported by RealClearPolitics, “Cortez said being ‘morally right’ is more important than being ‘factually right’ and that whenever she makes ‘a mistake’ it is not the same thing as President Donald Trump ‘lying about immigrants.’”
“I think that there’s a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right,” Ocasio-Cortez told Cooper.
CNN Editor-At-Large Chris Cizzilla criticized Ocasio-Cortez’ response, noting that while she is new to politics, “the high profile she already enjoys carries with it some responsibility. Namely, to get the facts right. And when you get them wrong, to correct it as quickly as possible rather than trying to justify the error.”
Unlike Ocasio-Cortez, Biden is on his third run for president and is currently polling as the front-runner in the Democratic primary.