News Analysis Sep 3, 2021 12:37 AM EST

USA Today retracts ‘fact check’ against Gold Star families to protect Biden after he dishonored slain soldiers

USA Today published a "fact check" on Wednesday claiming that President Joe Biden only checked his watch a single time. However claim is in direct direct contradiction to accounts of family members who were present to receive their family members’ remains.

USA Today retracts ‘fact check’ against Gold Star families to protect Biden after he dishonored slain soldiers
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President Joe Biden has been excoriated by pundits and politicians on both sides of the political spectrum during the past week for what critics call disrespectful behavior during the dignified transfer ceremony of the remains of the 13 US service members who were killed in a terrorist suicide bombing at the Kabul airport on August 26. Biden was alleged to have checked his watch.

Now, several outlets have been called out for trying to downplay the behavior, even going so far as to "fact check" those who called out the disgraceful behavior.

USA Today published a "fact check" on Wednesday claiming that President Joe Biden only checked his watch a single time. However, the claim is in direct contradiction to accounts of family members who were present to receive their loved ones' remains.

Biden was slammed after a video from the ceremony showed the President checking his watch as the caskets were offloaded from the plane at Dover Air Force Base.

Two Gold Star fathers of slain servicemen, Darin Hoover and Mark Schmitz, were present at the ceremony to receive their sons' remains, were interviewed on by Sean Hannity on Fox News and said they saw Biden repeatedly checking his watch during the ceremony every time a casket was unloaded from the plane. According to them, it happened thirteen times, one for each US service member killed in the attack.

Hoover told Sean Hannity, "In reference to the checking of his watch, that didn't happen just once that happened on every single one (casket) that came out of that airplane. It happened on every single one of them. They would release the salute and he looked down at his watch on every last one, all 13, he looked down at his watch. As a father, you know, seeing that and the disrespect and hearing from his (Darrin's) former leaders, one of his Master Sergeants said exactly what you just said, that 'this was avoidable,' that they left them over there. They had them over there and let them down. And that, that we can't have that. We... it can't happen ever again."

Hannity added, "We also abandoned Americans. Americans now are on their own. We left them behind." He then asked Schmitz, "Mark. You want to comment on the watch incident? Did you notice the same thing?"

Schmitz, "Yes, I did. I actually leaned into my son's mother's ear and I said, 'I swear to God if he checks his watch one more time.' And that was only probably four times in... I couldn't...I couldn't look at him anymore after that. Just considering, especially at the time and why we were there, it was... I found to be the most disrespectful thing I've ever seen."

Shana Chappell, a third Gold Star parent, wrote in a Facebook post: "I watched you disrespect us all 5 different times by checking your watch!!! What the f*** was so important that you had to keep looking at your watch????" She was suspended from Instagram for her posts criticizing Biden, which the Facebook owned social media platform later claimed was an error.

Despite the on-air testimony and Chappell’s description of the events Snopes also ran a "fact check" rating the story a "mixture" of truth because there was "no video or photographic evidence to support the claim that Biden checked his watch 13 times during this ceremony," basically accusing the parents of fallen servicemembers of lying.

Some on social media even tried to claim that Biden was looking at rosary beads he wears on his wrist in memory of his son Beau who died in 2015 from brain cancer. The beads were not visible during the incident.

USA Today on September 2, changed their "fact check" from "partly false" to "missing context." Media outlets have claimed to have reached out to USA Today for comment but received no response. Veterans' groups were encouraged to respectfully request the outlet to apologize for their claims.

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