USA Today has issued a correction after falsely claiming President Joe Biden did not check his watch during a ceremony that saw the 13 U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan last month transferred at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
“This story was updated Sept. 2 to note that Biden checked his watch multiple times at the dignified transfer event, including during the ceremony itself. The rating on this claim has been changed from partly false to missing context,” USA Today wrote in the correction.
The piece, a so-called fact check, had asserted that it was “wrong” to say that Biden checked his watch during the ceremony, which took place on Aug. 29.
“For Biden, he did appear to check his watch during his visit to Dover Air Force Base. But he did so after the dignified transfer ceremony was over,” USA Today writer David Funke wrote.
Funke said he reached out to social media users that he accused of falsely claiming that Biden did check his watch during the ceremony.
Video footage from Dover shows that Biden looked at his watch before the ceremony ended.
USA Today’s parent company, Gannett, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Funke took to Twitter Friday to say he regretted botching the fact check.
“Journalists and fact-checkers are human (yes, even me!) We make mistakes. When we do, we correct them and try to make it right,” he wrote. “It’s easy to dunk on journalists when we get things wrong. I get it – to many, we’re just another name on a screen. But behind that screen is a person trying to do their best.”
Users noted that besides video and photographs showing Biden checking his watch, Gold Star families had said Biden did so during the ceremony.
“They would release the salute and he looked down at his watch on every last one,” Darin Hoover, the father of slain Marine Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover, said on Fox News this week. “All 13, he looked down at his watch.”
“I actually leaned into my son’s mother’s ear and I said, ‘I swear to God, if he checks his watch one more time,'” Mark Schmitz, whose son, Marine Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, also died in the bombing in Kabul, added.
“And that was only probably four times in,” he added. “I couldn’t look at him anymore after that, just considering, especially, the time and why we were there. I found it to be the most disrespectful thing I’ve ever seen.”
Asked about the criticism on Aug. 31, White House press secretary Jen Psaki declined to answer directly.
“I would say his message to all of the family members who were there, those who were not even in attendance is that he is grateful to their sons and daughters, the sacrifice they made to the country; that he knows firsthand what it’s like to lose a child and the fact that no one can tell you anything or say anything—or there’s no words that are going to fill that hole that is left by that,” she said.