When a Native war hero gets an AP fact check over whether Biden pinned his medal on backward...
WASHINGTON — For the first time in history, a Native American this week received the highest honor from the United States for his service to the country in Vietnam — and a major component of the story has become whether President Joe Biden placed the accompanying medal on backward.
Spoiler alert: Biden did not. But social media doesn’t care.
First, you should know that the honoree was 74-year-old Dwight W. Birdwell, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He is the first Native American to receive the Medal of Honor for his heroic service during the Vietnam War, according to his tribe.
Biden awarded former U.S. Army specialist Birdwell — who has also served as a chief judge for his tribal nation and is now a practicing lawyer — the military’s highest recognition on July 5.
The honor comes as a result of Birdwell’s service as a soldier with Troop C, 3rd Squadron, 4th Calvary, 25th Infantry Division on Dec. 29, 1968.
“That day, a large enemy element initiated an assault on the Tan Son Nhut Airbase near Saigon,” according to the White House. “They disabled or destroyed many of the unit’s vehicles and incapacitated Specialist Five Birdwell’s tank commander.
“Under heavy enemy small-arms fire, Specialist Five Birdwell moved the tank commander to safety and fired the tank’s weapons at the enemy force. Afterwards, he dismounted and continued fighting until receiving enemy fire to his face and torso. He refused evacuation and led a small group of defenders to disrupt the enemy assault until reinforcements arrived. He then aided in evacuating the wounded until he was ordered to seek attention for his own wounds.”
The White House said Birdwell received the honor for “acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty.”
Soon after Biden placed the medal around Birdwell’s neck, a popular, conservative Twitter account posted an unusually grainy video, along with speculation that the president had inadvertently placed the medal backward. Thousands of comments poured in, largely referencing the president’s advancing age.
The post was retweeted thousands of times, leading the Associated Press and other news outlets to feel compelled to correct the record with the following article yesterday, “Biden did not put Medal of Honor on veteran backward.”
The full fact check is worth a read:
CLAIM: President Joe Biden placed the Medal of Honor improperly around a Vietnam War veteran’s neck, positioning the medal on the man’s back instead of his chest.
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Associated Press images and video show that Biden placed the medal correctly on the veteran’s chest.
THE FACTS: In the days after Biden on Tuesday bestowed the nation’s highest military honor on four Army soldiers for heroism during the Vietnam War, social media users were circulating a grainy video from the ceremony with false claims it showed the president making a blunder.
The video shows Biden placing the medal around the neck of Spc. Five Dwight W. Birdwell, who was honored for his help heading off an assault and evacuating wounded at Tan Son Nhut Airbase near Saigon in 1968, despite injuries to his torso and face. The blurriness of the video circulating online makes it difficult to see whether Biden places the star-shaped medal on Birdwell’s chest or back.
“Biden put his medal on backward,” read a tweet with the video that amassed thousands of retweets. “He’s declining before our eyes.”
“81 million?” read another tweet, referencing the number of votes Biden received in the 2020 election. “The man can’t even place a medal on a Vietnam Vet properly.”
But a review of clearer video from the ceremony makes it clear no mistake was made. While one recipient was given his medal framed, Biden fastened the three other medals around each recipient’s neck, fastening them at the back of the neck with the medal extending down on the chest.
AP images of the moment the medal was placed around Birdwell’s neck also show that Biden positioned it properly.
To date, the Twitter account that circulated the rumor has not corrected the record.
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Thanks for the below comment, Bob. Your point makes it clear why Native-focused outlets must be allowed in the room -- and they need to fight to be in there. The gatekeepers keep too many out, and then social media can't even keep a simple medal position straight.
From Bob Cohencious, Washington DC Bureau Chief, Native American Television:
I can assure you, as a Member of the White House Correspondents’ Association, that Biden did NOT place this medal on backwards. I was in the room, covering this event, for NATV.