Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden said the central point of a story he’s told about traveling overseas to honor a war hero who refused a medal is correct, after a report suggested the 2020 Democratic presidential front-runner combined details about separate events into one incorrect narrative.
“I don’t understand what they’re talking about, but the central point is it was absolutely accurate what I said,” Mr. Biden told the Post and Courier in South Carolina on Thursday.
The Washington Post had reported that it appeared Mr. Biden “jumbled elements of at least three actual events into one story of bravery, compassion and regret that never happened.”
He had relayed a story that a four-star general asked Mr. Biden, when he was vice president, to travel to Afghanistan to recognize the heroism of a Navy captain, who Mr. Biden said had rappelled down a 60-foot ravine under fire to retrieve the body of a fallen soldier.
Mr. Biden said the captain refused to be honored.
“He said, ‘Sir, I don’t want the damn thing!’” Mr. Biden said in the story. “‘Do not pin it on me, Sir! Please, Sir. Do not do that! He died. He died!’”
“This is the God’s truth,” Mr. Biden had said. “My word as a Biden.”
But The Post reported that Mr. Biden had visited the area in question in 2008 as a U.S. senator, the service member was a younger Army specialist, and that the soldier in question — ultimately given the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama — never had a medal pinned on him by Mr. Biden.
The report said that in 2011, Mr. Biden did pin a medal on a different soldier who felt he didn’t deserve the award.
“I was making the point how courageous these people are, how incredible they are, this generation of warriors, these fallen angels we’ve lost,” he also told The Post after the story first published. “I don’t know what the problem is. What is it that I said wrong?”
He told the Post and Courier that there were “two stories” — one that related to an operating base in Afghanistan and a separate one “where I went on the streets of Afghanistan where a young man pulled someone from a burning humvee.”
He said he didn’t think he was conflating the two stories.
“The story was that he refused the medal because the fella he tried to save and risked his life saving died,” he said. “That’s the beginning, middle and end. The rest of you guys can take it and do what you want with it.”
Mr. Biden has a noted history of verbal missteps that has continued into his 2020 bid for the White House.
He recently confused Vermont with neighboring New Hampshire and told attendees at the Iowa State Fair that “we choose truth over facts,” in addition to the war story and other verbal miscues.