‘Why the right must have teeth’: ‘Fact check’ disputing Gold Star families walked back after major backlash

USA Today issued a correction of sorts to a previous “fact-check” regarding reports that President Joe Biden incessantly — and to many, inappropriately — checked his watch during a somber ceremony earlier this week at Dover Air Force Base to receive the bodies of 13 U.S. service members killed in a suicide bombing in Kabul a few days before the Aug. 31 Afghanistan withdrawal deadline.

Biden was widely criticized for repeatedly looking down at his watch during the dignified transfer ceremony involving 11 Marines, two U.S. Army soldiers, and a Navy corpsman who were killed in the attack as they manned the Abbey Gate checkpoint screening for American citizens and Afghanis cleared to get aboard evacuation flights.

The fact-check was written by Daniel Funke on Wednesday, whose Twitter biography says that he also covers “misinfo” for the daily national newspaper.

“[Biden] did appear to check his watch during his visit to Dover Air Force Base,” Funke wrote. “But he did so after the dignified transfer ceremony was over.

“Footage leading up to the moment shows Biden with his hand over his heart for about 30 seconds as vans carry the service members’ remains off the tarmac. After the vans had left, Biden closes his eyes briefly before dropping his arms and glancing down at his watch,” Funke noted further, concluding that the claim was “partly false” and that images of Biden looking down at his watch did not “accurately summarize” what took place.

But several people ripped into Funke and USA Today for his characterization, especially for appearing to dispute witness accounts from Gold Star families who said Biden didn’t just look at his watch once but did so repeatedly throughout the transfer.

Afterward, the paper issued a correction to its fact check.

“Corrections & Clarifications: This story was updated Sept. 2 to note that Biden checked his watch multiple times at the dignified transfer event, including during the ceremony itself,” said the correction, which was placed at the top of the article online Thursday.

“The rating on this claim has been changed from partly false to missing context,” it added, which also seems incorrect given what the Gold Star families have attested to.

Also, USA Today editors changed the headline from “Fact check: Biden honored service members killed in Kabul, checked his watch only after ceremony,” to “Fact check: Biden honored service members killed in Kabul, checked his watch during ceremony.”

The backlash against USA Today’s original claim and its subsequent modification was relentless.

Earlier this week, Gold Star families lambasted Biden for his “disrespectful” actions.

“In reference to the checking of his watch, that didn’t happen just once. It happened on every single one that came out of that airplane. It happened on every single one of them,” Darin Hoover, father of Marine Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover, told Fox News’ Sean Hannity. “They would release the salute, and he would look down at his watch on every last one. All thirteen, he looked down at his watch.”

“Initially, I wasn’t going to meet with him, but then I felt I owed it to my son to at least have some words with him about how I felt, and… it didn’t go well. He talked a bit more about his own son than he did my son and that didn’t sit well with me,” added Mark Schmitz, father of Marine Lance Corporal Jared Schmitz, who appeared on the same program.

For many, the backlash to the ‘fact check’ was a lesson learned and an example going forward. Jesse Kelly called it a success story and an example on why the ‘Right must have teeth’:

Jon Dougherty

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