Evidence from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing is creating questions about how high any alleged misinformation campaign about Cpl Pat Tillman’s death may have gone.
The committee is looking into why the Pentagon spread false information about Tillman’s death due to friendly fire in April 2004, and the capture and rescue of Private Jessica Lynch in Iraq in 2003.
Democrats are pointing to evidence that a White House speechwriter was seeking information about Tillman on April 28, 2004, and one day later a Major General — alluding to a pending presidential speech — warned a General that Tillman may have been killed by friendly fire …doing so as to "preclude" any "embarrassment" for the president.
This was weeks before May 29, 2004, when the Tillman family was told the truth that their son had been killed by friendly fire.
A week after Tillman was killed on April 22, 2004, then-Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal sent a "P-4" memo to a four-star general on April 29, 2004, saying (emphases mine):
"IT IS HIGHLY POSSIBLE THAT CORPORAL TILLMAN WAS KILLED BY FRIENDLY FIRE. THIS POTENTIAL FINDING IS EXACERBATED BY THE UNCONFIRMED BUT SUSPECTED FINDING THAT POTUS AND THE SECRETARY OF THE ARMY MIGHT INCLUDES COMMENTS ABOUT CORPORAL TILLMAN’S HEROISM AND HIS APPROVED SILVER STAR MEDAL IN SPEECHES CURRENTLY BEING PREPARED, NOT KNOWING THE SPECIFICS SURROUNDING HIS DEATH…I FELT THAT IT WAS ESSENTIAL THAT YOU RECEIVED THIS INFORMATION AS SOON AS WE DETECTED IT IN ORDER TO PRECLUDE ANY UNKNOWING STATEMENTS BY OUR COUNTRY’S LEADERS WHICH MIGHT CAUSE PUBLIC EMBARRASSMENT IF THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF CORPORAL TILLMAN’S DEATH BECOME PUBLIC."
The day before, April 28, 2004, an email exchange between Pentagon officials indicated that White House speechwriter John Currin had been seeking information about Tillman "for the President’s speech at the Correspondent’s dinner this coming Saturday."
In that May 1, 2004 speech, President Bush did not mention the false stories about Tillman’s death that others in the Pentagon had spread.
"The loss of Army Corporal Pat Tillman last week in Afghanistan brought home the sorrow that comes with every loss, and reminds us of the character of the men and women who serve on our behalf ," the president said.
At Tillman’s memorial service in San Jose on May 3, 2004, Navy SEAL Steve White said in a eulogy that Tillman "made the call. He dismounted his troops, taking the fight to the enemy, uphill, to seize the tactical high ground from the enemy. This gave his brothers and the downed vehicle time to move off that target. He directly saved their lives with that move. Pat sacrificed himself so his brothers could live."
That story was later proven fictitious. White later said he was given that information by an Army official an hour or so before the ceremony, and that he regrets saying them.