On Tuesday, President Joe Biden awarded the Medal of Honor to Vietnam veteran 1st Lt. Larry L. Taylor. During the ceremony, Biden praised Taylor’s heroism, placed the medal around his neck, shook his hand, and exchanged salutes with him as the room erupted in a standing ovation. It should have been a completely apolitical event – the president recognizing the bravery of a heroic veteran. Conservative media, however, quickly lashed out at Biden, manufacturing a non-troversy over the timing of his departure from the ceremony.
Conservative media outrage stemmed from the fact that Biden left the ceremony prior to a closing prayer. Right-wing pundits insisted that Biden’s early exit insulted veterans and cited the non-troversy as an example of the president showing his age.
- Fox News’ Sean Hannity said: “Right on cue, the president today got confused and dazed and, well, he walked out during a Medal of Honor ceremony before the event was even over.”
- Newsmax’s Rob Schmitt said Biden had a “very odd moment” and “just wandered off, leaving the war hero on stage.”
- On X (formerly Twitter), Benny Johnson said Biden “JUMPS Off-stage During Medal of Honor Ceremony! INSULTS War Hero.”
- Megyn Kelly called Biden’s departure “horrifying” and described the president as “completely lost.” “How is he going to run the country when he can’t even run a Medal of Honor ceremony?” She asked. “He can’t do anything. He looked completely lost. All he had to do was stand there.”
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre later explained that Biden had planned to leave during a pause in the ceremony to reduce the audience’s possible exposure to COVID-19 after Jill Biden tested positive. Despite claims that Biden was “confused” during the ceremony, the White House transcript shows that Biden spent most of the ceremony speaking about Taylor’s valor and ended only after presenting the medal.
It’s worth pointing out that during Fox News’ and Newsmax’s live coverage of the ceremony, the networks didn’t comment on Biden’s departure. The fake outrage appears to have been manufactured only after the event.
The episode is reminiscent of an August 2021 incident in which Biden visited Dover Air Force Base for a ceremony to transfer the remains of American troops killed during the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. In that instance, Fox manipulated its own footage of the event to show that Biden had glanced at his watch during the ceremony after right-wing media personalities began criticizing the president for the supposedly disrespectful gesture. Meanwhile, Fox’s live coverage of the event didn’t note that anything had been amiss.