Now Obama cabinet member lies about serving in the US special forces

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: Feb 25, 2015 11:38 IST

A member of President Barack Obama’s cabinet on Tuesday joined a growing crew of celebs accused of embellishing resume by confessing he lied about serving in the US special forces.

“I made a mistake and I apologize for it,” said Robert McDonald, secretary for veterans affairs, which looks after former US military personnel, at a news conference.

He had told a homeless veteran, who had actually served in the special forces, that he was with the elite US group to, he said, “to make him feel comfortable”.

Just a bit of harmless embellishment? It would have been so had it not come at a time when two of the country’s leading news personalities have come under a cloud for exactly that.

It started earlier February when US military personnel called out NBC’s anchor Brian Williams, who helmed America’s most watched nightly news show, for bragging.
Williams had claimed in multiple interviews — but never on his own news show — that while covering the war in Iraq in 2003, a military helicopter he was riding came under enemy fire.

“I made a mistake in recalling the events of 12 years ago,” he said on his newscast the day Star and Stripes, a publication focussed on US military, reported the real story.

“I want to apologize. I said I was traveling in an aircraft that was hit by an RPG fire. I was instead in a following aircraft… I don’t know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft from the other.”

As questions began to be raised about some of his other stories — specially his coverage of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana — NBC took him off air and then suspended him.

That story was quickly overtaken last week, with newsmagazine Mother Jones reporting problems with Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly’s coverage of the Falklands War in 1982.

The anchor, who was then with CBS news, later said he had reported from “combat situation”, which Mother Jones and others said, was a stretch, by at least 1,200 miles.

O’Reilly was never in the “combat situation”, which would be the Falkland Islands, where few reporters had reached. He has since said he never claimed to be on the islands.

He has said he was “in a war zone in Argentina, in the Falklands”. But he said last week, “I was not on the Falkland Islands and I never said I was.”

He has said he covered the war from Buenos Aires like other reporters, and where he covered violent protests that erupted after Argentina surrendered to the the British.

Unlike McDonald and Williams, O’Reilly is fighting back.

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