Former Vice President Joe Biden has repeatedly incorrectly recounted a war story involving a US service member who received a military honor from him and his latest telling of the story last week contained several inaccurate elements, including the time period, the heroic act, the type of medal and the location of the story, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
The Post – citing conversations with more than a dozen US troops, their commanders and officials from Biden’s presidential campaign – said the 2020 hopeful recounted the story last Friday during a packed town hall in New Hampshire. The Post reported Biden mixed the details from at least three real events into one complete story that never actually took place.
The comments are the latest in a growing list of misstatements by the former vice president, who referred to himself last year as a “gaffe machine.” Earlier this month, Biden mistakenly said twice that he met with students who survived the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, when he was vice president, but the shooting took place a little more than a year after he left office. (Biden did meet with a group of Parkland survivors in 2018, after he was no longer vice president.)
At last week’s New Hampshire event, Biden said that as vice president, a four-star general asked him to travel to Kunar Province in Afghanistan “to recognize the remarkable heroism of a Navy captain,” the paper said, who had “rappelled down a 60-foot ravine under fire and retrieved the body of an American comrade, carrying him on his back.” According to Biden’s story, the general wanted him to pin a Silver Star on the service member, who was reluctant to receive the honor.
“He said, ‘Sir, I don’t want the damn thing!’ ” Biden said at the event, according to the Post. “‘Do not pin it on me, Sir! Please, Sir. Do not do that! He died. He died!’” The former vice president said his story was “the God’s truth,” the Post said. But according to the paper, Biden’s most recent iteration of the story, which the paper said he’s told in different forms for a number of years, was even more inaccurate than past versions.
Biden, the Post said, did visit Kunar Province, but it was in 2008, when he was a senator. And the solider whose act he described at the town hall was a young Army specialist, not an older Navy captain as he had said, and while they never received a Silver Star, the soldier did receive a Medal of Honor from then-President Barack Obama in 2014, according to the Post.
The real version of Biden’s story, the paper said, took place not in Kunar Province but in Wardak, and involved Army Staff Sgt. Chad Workman, who had tried unsuccessfully to rescue his friend from a burning vehicle. In January 2011, Biden, then serving as vice president, pinned a Bronze Star to Workman during a visit to Afghanistan, according to the Post, which said the soldier did not feel he deserved the honor.
The Biden campaign did not respond to CNN’s request for comment on the Post’s report. In an interview on Thursday with The Post and Courier in South Carolina, the former vice president defended himself against the Post’s report, saying that while there are two war stories he likes to tell, he didn’t think he was conflating the details of the stories.
“The story was that he refused the medal because the fella he tried to save – and risked his life saving – died,” Biden said, according to the paper. “That’s the beginning, middle and end. The rest of you guys can take it and do what you want with it.”
Other inaccurate details
At the New Hampshire town hall, Biden made several other misstatements, including one about how many visits he’s made to Afghanistan and Iraq, according to the Post.
The former vice president, the paper said, told the crowd that he’d been to the two countries “over 30 times,” but his campaign later clarified to the Post that the correct number is actually 21.
Biden also misstated the number of people shot by Ohio National Guardsmen at Kent State University in May 1970, saying it was more than 40. In reality, there were four people killed and nine injured by the guardsman during a Vietnam War protest at the school.
And during a separate recent speech, the former vice president confused former British prime ministers Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May while he recounted the international backlash to President Donald Trump’s reaction to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. May was prime minister at the time, but while Biden appeared to immediately realize his mistake, he did not go on to name May.
CNN’s Eric Bradner, Kate Sullivan and Steve Brusk contributed to this report.