Q: Was Obama rude to wounded veterans during a visit to the National Naval Medical Center?
A: A chain e-mail that makes such a claim gets several facts wrong and is disputed by an official who was present at the meeting.
Is this story true?
Subject: David Jr. Meets His commander In Chief
This email is from Dave Borden, Sr. His son Dave, Jr. was badly injured by a bomb explosion while serving in Iraq. Dave Jr has had over 38 surgeries to date. The email below tells of a recent visit from President Obama, and compares it to the visits of other personages. The email speaks for itself.
Since Dave Jr. has been injured, he has met and been overwhelmed by many, many political and military "celebs". The list includes Bob Gates, Secretary of Defense, who came into his room and told him 3 or 4 times that if Dave Jr. had any issues to call his cell phone number. It includes Gen. Petereus who sat and talked with Dave Jr. for almost 45 minutes. The General recalled vividly all of the circumstances around the events that led to fighting that Dave was involved in. It includes Sen. McCain who arrived late on a Saturday afternoon during a thunder storm, unannounced, and talked to Dave Jr. about how similar their experiences with fate. It includes George W. Bush when Dave Jr. was invited to attend the very last Christmas party at the White House for the White House Staff. President Bush and his wife entered the ballroom and immediately went to Dave Jr.. President Bush knew Dave Jr.’s name as well as when and how he was injured. Dave Jr. had a picture taken with Laura and the President that he has framed and will cherish forever. The list goes on and on of people coming in to meet Dave Jr. and the other wounded warriors at Walter Reed and Bethesda.
Yesterday. Dave Jr. was ordered to be at the National Naval Hospital with another 12 soldiers and Marines to meet with Obama. Obama was supposed to arrive at 11:30 AM. He finally got there at 3:00 PM. He entered the room with the wounded warriors and quickly shook each of their hands while he was photographed. He never asked their names, where they were from, or how they were injured. Then he left.
Dave Jr. has met among his many visitors the people who really care about the military. All he remembers from he Obama visit is a weak handshake. The others in the room, younger and less exposed to the people that Dave Jr. has met, had high expectations and were very disappointed. Word about Obama’s "insensitive" visit has spread to the MATC (the rehab facility) at Walter Reed and throughout Bethesda. The military sees through his phoniness.
All I can say is that it is such a disappointment that this man is Commander-In-Chief of our Armed Forces. He is an embarrassment to our Nation.
We have received several questions asking about the truth behind President Obama’s June trip to visit wounded veterans at the National Naval Medical Center. Particularly noteworthy about this chain e-mail is its reference to specific facts regarding 1st Lt. David Borden Jr. Unlike the subjects of many chain e-mails we review, Borden is not a made-up character: He is a real person, who served in Iraq and has been profiled by York, Pa.’s Daily Record. Borden’s story is inspiring, but the rest of this e-mail gets several facts wrong about the president’s visit with Borden and other soldiers and Marines.
It’s true that Borden’s father, David Borden Sr., initially wrote a personal e-mail about the visit, according to Master Sgt. Joseph Liptok, the deputy director of the Marine Corps liaison office at the medical center. But, Liptok told us, the chain e-mail now being forwarded and posted on Web sites is an altered version of the original. He also emphasized that the views in the chain e-mail are not those of 1st Lt. Borden. We made several attempts to speak with Borden and his father, but they declined to comment.
Several facts in the chain e-mail are contradicted by Liptok, who was present during Obama’s visit on June 1, as well as by pool reports from a reporter covering the White House. The e-mail claims that "Dave Jr. was ordered to be at the National Naval Hospital with another 12 soldiers and Marines to meet with Obama." Liptok told us that "Obama met with 16 wounded soldiers and their families, as well as 25 staff members and … five case managers." Liptok went on to say that the president met with outpatients as well. "Everyone enjoyed it, and he met a lot more people than when Bush visited before. The president will usually meet the inpatients but this time [Obama] met the staff and outpatients as well."
According to the pool report filed June 1, reporter Mike Shear of The Washington Post didn’t attend the meeting but waited in a separate room for the president to finish his visit. He reported that after the visit Tommy Vietor, White House assistant press secretary, said that "[t]he president met with 26 inpatients and approximately 30 outpatients and their families. He also met with hospital staff. Additionally, the President awarded 2 Purple Hearts." Vietor told us he was not in the meeting, however.
The e-mail goes on to claim that the president arrived at the medical center at 3 p.m., three-and-a-half hours late. But Shear reported that Obama arrived in Marine One at 1:20 p.m. Liptok said the president was late but only "40 minutes off of his schedule."
The message also claims that Obama "quickly shook" hands with the wounded veterans while pausing for a photo, but "[h]e never asked their names, where they were from, or how they were injured. Then he left." Shear’s report, however, says that Obama left the hospital at 2:35 p.m., an hour and 15 minutes after he arrived. Liptok told us that the description of the visit in the e-mail is "absolutely not" accurate. "He had a conversation with each marine individually," Liptok said. "He made conversation and took a group photo, and one with each individual, then met the inpatients and outpatients."
Liptok also said that 1st Lt. Borden knew that this false e-mail was making the rounds on the Internet and that he was "extremely upset." Liptok continued: "He had nothing to do with the e-mail, and didn’t know about it until after it was sent out. … None of those views were his views." Liptok told us he passed along questions from factcheck.org to Borden and his father, but both declined to comment. We also tried to reach both men through a reporter at the York, Pa., paper that had profiled Borden. The reporter told us she left phone messages for them on our behalf, and we called what we believe to be Borden Sr.’s home phone number but did not reach him.
Update, July 14: Reporter Erin James, who profiled 1st Lt. Borden for the York, Pa., paper, wrote a July 11 article in Hanover, Pa.’s Evening Sun about this chain e-mail. She was able to reach David Borden Sr. by phone. He acknowledged that he wrote an e-mail and sent it to some friends. According to James, Borden Sr. said that he had no intention of the e-mail being publicized and that he did not know who initially forwarded it. He also told James that the situation has “been a tough diversion, especially for my son. … They were my comments, not his.” Citing a desire for the situation to “go away,” he declined to answer any further questions about the e-mail. Snopes.com has also written about the Borden e-mail, which the site called “mostly false.”
Liptok, Joseph. Interview with factcheck.org. 25 June 2009.
James, Erin. "In the midst of the healing process." York Daily Record / Sunday News. 24 May 2008.