Former US Vice President and a current front-running presidential candidate Joe Biden repeatedly tells an Afghanistan story, getting the facts wrong, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
Biden, who refers to himself as a “gaffe machine,” due to his numerous and embarrassing slips of tongue, reportedly conflated at least three different events into one story and keeps retelling it, as recently as last week, the report says.
According to Biden’s recollection of events, he visited the Kunar province in Afghanistan during his tenure as vice president, ignoring concerns that his visit might threaten US national security.
“We can lose a vice president [...] We can’t lose many more of these kids,” Biden reportedly said.
During the visit, a general allegedly wanted him to pin a Silver Star on a Navy captain who had rappelled 60 feet under enemy fire to save a fellow serviceman.
“He said: ‘Sir, I don’t want the damn thing! Do not pin it on me, Sir! Please, Sir. Do not do that! He died. He died!’”, Biden has told audiences on a number of occasions.
According to WaPo fact checking, however, there are a lot of discrepancies in the story. First, Biden visited Afghanistan in 2008, when he was a Senator, not a vice president.
Second, the daring rescue operation was performed by Army specialist Kyle J. White, not a Navy captain. White never received a medal from Biden, but was awarded the Medal of Honor years later by then-president Barack Obama.
The Post report says that Biden did award a different soldier who did not want the award as he felt he had not earned it.
“In Afghanistan, [Biden] 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,” a campaign spokesperson told the Post.
During the same trip, Biden attended an award ceremony for a soldier who saved a wounded trooper under Taliban fire, the report notes, which possibly explains the awkward mix-up.
When contacted by The Post and Courier on Thursday, the presidential candidate denied mixing up events.
“The central point is it was absolutely accurate what I said,” Biden told the newspaper, while admitting he did not read the WaPo report. “He refused the medal. I put it on him, he said, ‘Don’t do that to me, sir. He died. He died’”.
Biden has repeatedly raised eyebrows at political events with his disjointed speeches. In particular, he wrongly stated that he served as vice president when he met with students after the 2018 Parkland shooting. That was over a year after Biden had left the office.
The gaffe pales in comparison to another speech in which he famously stated that “poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids.” Realizing that he said something wrong, he tried to correct himself to say “wealthy kids.”