Biden misstated details of war story on the campaign trail: Report

Biden, 76, continues to face scrutiny over multiple recent gaffes.

August 29, 2019, 3:45 PM

Former Vice President Joe Biden is facing questions about a harrowing war story he tells on the campaign trail after a report in the Washington Post pointed out multiple inaccuracies in his account.

The story, which he most recently told during a town hall event in Hanover, New Hampshire last week, details the story of a "young Navy captain," as he puts it, stoically trying to reject a military medal from Biden -- who says he was then vice president -- after the captain failed to recover a fellow soldier on the battlefield.

As Biden tells it, the Navy captain rappelled down a 60-foot ravine in the mountains in the Kunar province of Afghanistan to try to retrieve the fellow soldier but was unsuccessful. Biden says that afterward, a general wanted him to fly to Afghanistan to pin a Silver Star on the captain, a medal the captain refused.

PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidate and former vice president Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event in Sumter, S.C, July 6, 2019.
Democratic presidential candidate and former vice president Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event in Sumter, S.C, July 6, 2019.
Meg Kinnard/AP

"One of his buddies got shot, fell down a ravine about 60 feet. A four-star general asked me whether I’d go up in the FOB," Biden told a hushed crowd during a town hall last week on the campus of Dartmouth College, using the military shorthand for forward operating base. "And everybody got concerned a vice president going up in the middle of this, but we can lose a vice president, we can't lose many more of these kids, not a joke. This guy climbed down a ravine. Carried his guy up on his back under fire, and the general wanted me to pin the Silver Star on him."

"God's truth, my word as a Biden," he continued. "He stood at attention, I went to pin him, he said: 'Sir, I don’t want the damn thing. Do not pin it on me sir, please. Do not do that. He died. He died.'"

However, according to the Post, multiple details of the story Biden tells are inaccurate, including the people involved and the timing of the incident.

According to the report, Biden visited Kunar province as a U.S. senator in 2008, not as vice president, and the soldier involved was not an older Navy captain, but a 20-year-old Army specialist named Kyle White. White was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2014, and Biden was present at a White House ceremony when then-President Obama pinned it on his chest.

The story Biden that tells about a solider trying to reject a medal instead is based on an incident that did take place involving Army Staff Sgt. Chad Workman, who served in Afghanistan.

Workman unsuccessfully tried to save a fellow solider from a burning vehicle in the province of Wardak, just southwest of the country's capital city of Kabul.

Biden did pin a medal on Workman during a January 2011 ceremony at Forward Operating Base Airborne in Wardak Province.

"His commander asked me to pin a Bronze Star on him," Biden said of the ceremony in a 2016 interview with National Geographic, "And right before this – you see the look on his face – he says, 'Sir, I don’t want it. I don’t want it. He died. He died. I didn’t do my job, sir. He died.'"

“In Afghanistan, he was moved by Staff Sgt. Workman’s valor and selflessness, which is emblematic of the duty and sacrifice of the 9/11 generation of veterans who have given so much across countless deployments,” Andrew Bates, a spokesman for the Biden campaign, said in a statement given to the Post.

In an interview with the Post, Workman's version of the story mirrors Biden's.

In an interview Thursday with The Post and Courier, a South Carolina newspaper, Biden pushed back on the report, saying that the "central point" of the story he told is accurate.

"I don’t understand what they’re talking about, but the central point is it was absolutely accurate what I said,” Biden told the paper. “He refused the medal. I put it on him, he said, ‘Don’t do that to me, sir. He died. He died.’ ”

The report comes as Biden, 76, continues to face increased scrutiny about his recent misstatements and gaffes on the campaign trail, a criticism he acknowledged Thursday afternoon while campaigning in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

Biden recounted how "the press accurately pointed out," a recent misstatement about the timing of a meeting he had with students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a 2017 shooting took the lives of 17 people. During a news conference earlier this month in Iowa, Biden incorrectly said he was Vice President during the time of the meeting, even though it took place in 2017, after he left office.

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