ROCK HILL — Former Vice President Joe Biden pushed back on a report in The Washington Post that he recently told an inaccurate story in New Hampshire about traveling to Afghanistan to reward a heroic Navy captain.
According to the report Thursday, Biden claimed that a Navy captain had rappelled down a ravine under fire, retrieved the body of an American comrade and then tried to reject Biden's efforts to pin a Silver Star on him because the soldier he tried to save had died.
Citing interviews with U.S. troops, commanders and Biden campaign officials, The Washington Post reported that Biden appears to have "jumbled elements of at least three actual events into one story of bravery, compassion and regret that never happened."
"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," the story said.
At the beginning of a pre-scheduled interview with The Post and Courier following a town hall in Rock Hill, Biden said he had not read The Washington Post story yet but does not think he conflated details from multiple different stories.
"I don’t understand what they’re talking about, but the central point is it was absolutely accurate what I said," Biden said. "He refused the medal. I put it on him, he said, ‘Don’t do that to me, sir. He died. He died.' "
The story published while Biden was speaking at Clinton College.
Biden did acknowledge that there are at least two different stories that he likes to tell.
"There was one that relates to the forward-operating base in Afghanistan that I went to and a separate one where I went on the streets of Afghanistan where a young man pulled someone from a burning humvee," Biden said.
But asked if he conflated the details of those stories, Biden said, "No, I don't think so."
As The Washington Post noted, Biden has made numerous misstatements during the campaign so far that have raised questions among some observers about his age. Biden, 76, is running for president for a third time and is the frontrunner in Democratic primary polls.
Asked about those concerns, Biden said he thinks "it's ridiculous," and he disputed the notion "that there’s anything I said about that that wasn’t the essence of the story."
"The story was that he refused the medal because the fella he tried to save —and risked his life saving — died," Biden said. "That’s the beginning, middle and end. The rest of you guys can take it and do what you want with it.”
The transcript of former Vice President Joe Biden's interview with The Post and Courier about the Washington Post report on inaccuracies in his story of pinning a medal on a Navy captain in Afghanistan:
Have you seen the Washington Post story?
It claims that you got details wrong about pinning a medal on a Navy captain in Afghanistan —
"I understand the person that I said did not want the medal that I was pinning on him in fact confirmed he told me he didn’t want the medal because a young man died. There were two stories. There was one that relates to the forward-operating base in Afghanistan that I went to and a separate one where I went on the streets of Afghanistan where a young man pulled someone from a burning humvee. I don’t understand what they’re talking about, but the central point is it was absolutely accurate what I said. He refused the medal. I put it on him, he said, ‘Don’t do that to me, sir. He died. He died.'"
Did you conflate details of those different stories?
"No I don’t think so, but I haven’t seen the article."
Based on the report, it seems like there were a few different stories that you may have combined into one, but there was a soldier —
"There was a soldier, that had to do with a humvee that had blown up. There was another story where a young man was in a forward-operating base where someone got shot and fell down a ravine, and the young man went down and picked that person up, carried him up and he died. I was asked by a commanding general, would I pin a medal on him? He didn’t want the medal either because he said he died even though he went down under fire and saved a man. They were the two stories."
The reason why some people are looking at this story, even though it’s just about one story in New Hampshire that you told, is broader concerns about misstatements on the trail. Obviously folks have asked you about your age and you’ve said we should judge by your performance.
"I think it’s ridiculous. The essence — that there’s anything I said about that that wasn’t the essence of the story. The story was that he refused the medal because the fella he tried to save and risked his life saving died. That’s the beginning, middle and end. The rest of you guys can take it and do what you want with it."