August 23, 2019, HANOVER, N.H. — Joe Biden painted a vivid scene for the 400 people packed into a college meeting hall. A four-star general had asked the then-vice president to travel to Konar province in Afghanistan, a dangerous foray into “godforsaken country” to recognize the remarkable heroism of a Navy captain.
Some told him it was too risky, but Biden said he brushed off their concerns.
“We can lose a vice president,” he said. “We can’t lose many more of these kids. Not a joke.”
The Navy captain, Biden recalled Friday night, had rappelled down a 60-foot ravine under fire and retrieved the body of an American comrade, carrying him on his back. Now the general wanted Biden to pin a Silver Star on the American hero who, despite his bravery, felt like a failure.
“He said, ‘Sir, I don’t want the damn thing!’ ” Biden said, his jaw clenched and his voice rising to a shout. “ ‘Do not pin it on me, Sir! Please, Sir. Do not do that! He died. He died!’ ”
The room was silent.
“This is the God’s truth,” Biden had said as he told the story. “My word as a Biden.”
Except almost every detail in the story appears to be incorrect. Based on interviews with more than a dozen U.S. troops, their commanders and Biden campaign officials, it appears as though the former vice president has jumbled elements of at least three actual events into one story of bravery, compassion and regret that never happened.
Biden visited Konar province in 2008 as a U.S. senator, not as vice president. The service member who performed the celebrated rescue that Biden described was a 20-year-old Army specialist, not a much older Navy captain. And that soldier, Kyle J. White, never had a Silver Star, or any other medal, pinned on him by Biden. At a White House ceremony six years after Biden’s visit, White stood at attention as President Barack Obama placed a Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor, around his neck.
The upshot: In the space of three minutes, Biden got the time period, the location, the heroic act, the type of medal, the military branch and the rank of the recipient wrong, as well as his own role in the ceremony.