By Daniel Dale
On Saturday night, an entirely false claim about President Joe Biden went viral among conservatives on Twitter.
“Our heroes were returned to American soil and Dover AFB today. Nobody from the Biden White House attended,” tweeted Buzz Patterson, a Republican congressional candidate in California.
Patterson’s tweet — posted before 11 p.m. on Saturday — generated thousands of retweets. And similar claims were made by other conservatives with substantial Twitter followings.
Ryan Fournier, the Students for Trump co-founder who has more than 940,000 followers, tweeted a near-identical claim. Fournier’s tweet specified that “not even the President of the United States” showed up at Dover, and it concluded: “Remember every moment of this.”
Fox News host Laura Ingraham amplified a similar tweet; she added, “The Biden administration doesn’t care about our troops.” Richard Grenell, who served as acting director of national intelligence under President Donald Trump, also amplified a similar tweet, though he added, “How could this be? It’s so offensive.” (When another conservative commentator replied that the claim had not been confirmed, Grenell added, “I pray no one made this mistake.”)
Facts First: It’s completely false that nobody from the Biden administration showed up at Dover Air Force Base to greet the remains of the 13 troops killed in a terror attack on Thursday outside Kabul’s airport. President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden — along with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and other administration officials — attended the dignified transfer at Dover on Sunday morning. The viral tweets accusing the Biden administration of being absent at Dover were posted hours before the remains actually arrived at the base.
The false claims were previously noted on Twitter by Travis Akers, a progressive Navy veteran. Ingraham, Fournier, Grenell and Patterson ended up deleting their tweets, at varying speeds, after their inaccuracy was pointed out.
What actually happened
Christin Michaud, the public affairs chief for Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations, told CNN on Sunday that the military plane carrying the troops’ remains arrived at Dover shortly after 8 a.m. ET on Sunday on a flight from Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
Air Force One landed at Dover at 8:40 am ET, according to a report from the White House press pool. It carried the President, the First Lady, and, according to the White House, eight Biden aides. In addition to Austin, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley and other senior military officials attended the proceedings at Dover.
After Biden exited Air Force One and spoke to the military commanders who greeted him, he was driven to a building on the base. He then met with troops’ family members at the base’s Center for Families of the Fallen, according to the White House.
The dignified transfer, in which the remains are carried from the plane to a waiting vehicle and then to a mortuary facility, began later in the morning. Biden’s motorcade arrived for the dignified transfer at 11:04 am, according to a pool report, and the bus carrying troops’ family members arrived at 11:20 am. You can read more about the proceedings here.
One of the tweeters who made the false claim about Biden not showing up at Dover, businessman and Republican political consultant Blair Brandt, deleted that initial false tweet — but then insisted, just after 1 a.m. on Sunday morning, that Biden still had “no plans” at the time to attend the return of the remains, “according to the current White House schedule.” Then, when Biden did go to Dover on Sunday, some lower-profile tweeters claimed that Biden must have changed his plans after the criticism on Saturday night.
But these claims were also false.
Biden’s plans to attend the dignified transfer were set well before the inaccurate tweets and resulting outrage on Saturday night. In fact, well before those tweets, television networks had plans in place to cover Biden’s travel to Dover.
Brandt was correct that Biden’s planned trip to Dover did not appear on the public schedule his staff released to the press on Saturday night — but public schedules do not include all of a president’s planned activities. Previous presidents, including Trump and Barack Obama, have also made visits to Dover that were not announced on their public schedules in advance.
“The base asked us not to announce out of respect. This is similar to what they have done in the past,” a Biden White House official said Sunday on the condition of anonymity.
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