Former Vice President Joe Biden is unapologetic for fabricating an emotional story about the war in Afghanistan, claiming its “essence” is true.
Biden, who is under fire after The Washington Post exposed a story he told about pinning a medal on a reluctant Navy officer as inaccurate, defended his conduct while campaigning in South Carolina on Thursday.
“I don’t understand what they’re talking about, but the central point is it was absolutely accurate what I said,” Biden told The Post and Courier when asked about the controversy. “He refused the medal. I put it on him, he said, ‘Don’t do that to me, sir. He died. He died.’”
The story, in question, entailed the former vice president being asked by a four-star general to travel to Afghanistan to honor a Navy captain who risked his life to save a downed comrade. As Biden recollected to more than 400 voters in New Hampshire last week, the captain “rappelled down a 60-foot ravine under fire and retrieved the body of an American comrade, carrying him on his back.” When the captain’s superiors sought to honor his bravery with a “Silver Star,” the officer refused, as his comrade had died during the mission.
Initially, raw emotion Biden exhibited during its telling made a significant impression on those in attendance, including members of the press. Unfortunately for Biden, however, the story’s strong impression also meant it would be heavily scrutinized for accuracy — a process it could not withstand.
As the Washington Post reported on Thursday, “almost every detail in the story appears to be incorrect” upon closer investigation.
Biden visited Kunar 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 paper concluded that the 76-year-old former Biden had in fact conflated three different stories, including one in which he actually “did pin a medal on a heartbroken soldier, Army Staff Sgt. Chad Workman, who didn’t believe he deserved the award.”
“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,” the paper elaborated.
Biden, though, did not see it along those lines. Speaking to the Post and Courier, Biden admitted there were two different stories he occasionally tells on the campaign trail about Afghanistan, but would not confirm if he’d muddled their details together.
“There was one that relates to the forward-operating base in Afghanistan that I went to and a separate one where I went on the streets of Afghanistan where a young man pulled someone from a burning humvee,” Biden said, before adding the “essence” of the story he told in New Hampshire was true.
“The story was that he refused the medal because the fella he tried to save —and risked his life saving — died,” he said. “That’s the beginning, middle and end. The rest of you guys can take it and do what you want with it.”
When pushed whether or not he had conflated three separate stories into one, as the Post claimed, Biden replied, “No, I don’t think so.”
This is not the first that Biden has attempted to dismiss concerns about his credibility by going on defense. During his first presidential bid for the 1988 Democrat nomination, Biden was accused of plagiarizing speeches on the campaign trail from Neil Kinnock, at the time a leading British politician. When the plagiarism was brought to light, Biden responded dismissively, claiming politicians borrowed themes and “echoed” each other all of the time.
“Quite frankly,” Biden said shortly before being forced to drop out of the race. “I think this is much ado about nothing.”