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The Washington Post stands by the story,” she said.

She also said it was “absolutely untrue” that the reporter tried to bait the family into blaming race for the denial of a Medal of Honor.

Peralta’s mother, Rosa, and his brother, Ricardo, made that accusation in a letter they wrote to Mr. Hunter, which he forwarded to The Post.

“During the phone interview, this reporter had begun asking questions about her son Rafael Peralta, my mom answered his questions but this reporter began harassing my mother and changing her words as to making him come off as some sort of punk,” the two said in their letter.

“She felt that by his words that he was trying to force her into making statements that he wanted to hear. He tried to get me to pull the ‘race card’ as to being the reason for the denial of the Medal of Honor on three separate occasions of the interview,” the two Peraltas wrote.

In a separate letter, George Sabga, a spokesman for the family, wrote The Post reporter laying out several objections to the report including the claim that Peralta was an illegal immigrant.

He reiterated the charge that the reporter repeatedly asked about race, even after Mrs. Peralta’s initial rejection that her son’s Mexican ancestry was involved in the decision-making.

“Instead of accepting these responses, you continued along this line of questioning by changing the wording of your questions. I find it ironic that the mother of a fallen Marine has more honor and integrity than a reporter for the Washington Post,” Mr. Sabga wrote. He demanded a public apology.

Mr. Jones, the Marine who was in the Fallujah room that day, said he believes Peralta deserves the Medal of Honor and that the evidence supports that, but he added that he understands Mr. Hagel’s decision.

“Either way, there is a shred of doubt, and I understand it,” he said.

“Honestly, it’s not going to matter either way. Whether he gets the medal or doesn’t get the medal, his story is out there, it’s a true … story,” he said. “If anybody wants to dispute that, they can come find me. My address is listed.”