April 24, 2007 -- A congressional hearing today will explore whether Pentagon officials have been propagating false stories to create "heroes" in the American culture with the same determination of the creators behind the hit NBC show.
Entitled "Misleading Information From the Battlefield," the hearing from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will look into why the Pentagon spread untrue stories about the death of Army Ranger Pat Tillman in Afghanistan and the rescue of Pvt. Jessica Lynch in Iraq.
Pentagon spinners pushed tales of bravery and courage under fire that sounded too good to be true -- and were.
'They Used Me'
U.S. officials told stories about Lynch's capture in Iraq that made her sound like a female Rambo.
In the media, she was called "hard as nails." On CBS News, Bill Whitaker said, "She shot until she ran out of ammunition."
Pentagon spinners told the media she went down fighting, but those tales were untrue. In fact, her weapon jammed so she put her head down and prayed.
In an interview with Diane Sawyer in 2003, Lynch said that the myth created around her situation bothered her.
"They used me, as a way to, to symbolize all this stuff. I mean, yeah, it's wrong," she said. "I don't know why they filmed it or why they say … that I was in that hospital hurting."
Tillman's Family Outraged
Similarly, Army officials spread the false story that Tillman had been killed by the enemy near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in April 2004.
"They moved towards the ambush. … The firefight ensued. … And that's when Spc. Tillman was killed," said Lt. Col. Matt Beevers, the U.S. military spokesman.
In reality, as Army officials knew almost immediately, the former pro-football star had been killed accidentally by U.S. troops.
Tillman's mother, Mary Tillman, told ESPN Radio that the Pentagon's lies had added to her grief.
"I want a congressional hearing because I want to find out what actually happened," she said on air. "We've been lied to so much throughout this whole ordeal that I would like to have it all aired out."
This morning, Tillman will get that hearing.
"If this false information's being put out deliberately, it's a disservice to not only to Jessica Lynch and Tillman and their family members, it's a disservice to the American public," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.
In an interview today with Diane Sawyer on "Good Morning America," Lynch agreed.
"I feel that Pat Tillman -- his family deserves the truth," Lynch said. "I got this opportunity to set the record straight where he didn't have that opportunity … to come out and say this is not what happened."
Testifying today will be Lynch, Tillman's mother and brother, and others.
"It was important for me to come out with the truth. … I didn't want to be portrayed as this Rambo fighting machine when I knew it wasn't the truth," Lynch said of the hearing.
Lynch maintains that the troops are heroes without any exaggeration.
"There's heroes everywhere -- the ones that are just over there still fighting here today. … My friends in combat, the ones that actually went down fighting," she said. "The troops are heroes and they're over there fighting for our freedom and our country. They're doing their job. Give them all the credit and pray for them and just make sure they come home safely."
The Pentagon did not return a call for comment.