Stolen valor. It’s a real thing.
It appears Fox News, the Trump propaganda arm, was so desperate to find a military hero to honor their king, that they failed to do their due diligence, and today, they’ve got egg on their face.
On the 8th of October, Fox News ran with a breathless piece on John Garofalo, a glass artist and Trump fan, who hoped to get near his idol to offer him a glass and bronze presidential seal he’d crafted.
Garofalo was billed as a highly decorated former Navy SEAL and Vietnam veteran.
During the segment, Garofalo expressed his admiration for Trump, saying: “He woke something up in me. He’s for the people.”
Yeah, I still don’t get that, at all.
Fox News also posted a video of the segment to its Facebook page, where it soon went viral, It garnered 1.5 million views, with many commenters praising Garofalo as an American hero.
The video’s description said: “Despite health issues, Vietnam veteran and two-time Purple Heart recipient John Garofalo, 72, created a hand-cut, four-ft, 150-lb. glass and bronze presidential seal as a gift for President Donald J. Trump. He hopes the President will accept it.”
A two-time Purple Heart recipient? That’s pretty impressive, right?
In fact, Garofalo claimed to have received nearly two dozen commendations.
The Fox News reporter, Bryan Llenas, praised him for his service.
“The Vietnam War veteran served seven years as a member of the nation’s first Navy SEAL team,” Llenas said. “He was awarded 22 commendations, including two Purple Hearts.”
“You are a hero but like most heroes, you don’t like to hear that,” Llenas told Garofalo. “Why don’t you like to hear it?”
“Heroes are the ones who didn’t come home,” Garofalo replied tearfully.
It’s also a lie.
Garofalo never served in Vietnam. He did serve in Spain.
As for commendations, he has received the National Defense Service Medal, but that’s it.
A video of the segment posted to Fox News’ site got 1.5 million views.
On Thursday, Fox News issued a correction, and by Friday, the video had been taken down.
“We apologize to our viewers, especially veterans and servicemen and women,” Fox News said.
On Friday morning, Llenas issued an on-air apology, saying, “There are lessons to be learned from this. I should have done more to verify his information.”
You should have, but the need to prop up Trump outweighs commonsense on the job.
But get this part:
Both the network and Llenas said that he spent the past two weeks working with Garofalo’s family and the National Personnel Records Center “to get to the bottom of a military past that Garofalo had claimed to be covert.”
Oddly enough (or maybe not) they’d been alerted to Garofalo’s fake status the day after the report aired by Don Shipley, an actual retired SEAL who makes it a point to sniff out and expose frauds.
Shipley told BuzzFeed News that he had informed Fox News on Oct. 9 that Garofalo had never been a SEAL in Vietnam and asked them to retract the story.
Shipley added that someone wrote to him about the Vietnam SEAL who had been featured on Fox News.
“As soon as I heard that, red flags went straight up,” Shipley said, adding that there were less than 300 SEALs who had served in Vietnam and that it was the “No. 1 fake claim” imposters used.
Well, it sounds cool, at least.
Shipley did the work that Fox News claimed to be doing. He checked the records, then called Garofalo and confronted him, only to have the fraudulent SEAL dance around the subject.
“He finally ‘fessed up to it,” Shipley said. “He ‘fessed up and said he was going to have Fox News retract the story.”
Shipley then reached out to Llenas on Facebook, only to be blown off.
Shipley said Llenas “brushed him off” and the two went back and forth for a few days. He said that Llenas told him, “a little sarcastically,” that he had put in a request for Garofalo’s records and would get back to Shipley after seeing them. However, Llenas did not reach out to Shipley after that.
Shipley also put out a video on Oct. 9 to “quell this sh*t” and to call out Garofalo for being a “total phony.”
He also sent the records to the Navy Times, who did the work Fox wouldn’t.
“It got bigger and bigger,” Garofalo told the Navy Times on Thursday. “What I did I‘m ashamed of, and I didn’t mean to cause so much disgrace to the SEALs.”
Fox News wants to make this go away, referring all inquiries to Llenas’ on-air apology.
Shipley thinks he knows why it took them so long to pull the story, however.
Shipley — who has appeared on Fox News himself — said he found it “appalling” that the network did not immediately retract the report, and suggested it may have been because the video “was hugely popular and had a million and half views on Facebook alone.”
There was a lot of “butt-kissing and boot-licking” going on in the comments section of the Facebook video where Fox News viewers called Garofalo a “great American” and “a great hero,” he added. “It was hard for me and other SEALs to watch it and know that it wasn’t true.”
In other words… fake news.
Shipley went on to say that Garofalo admitted to him that he’d been pulling that particular con for a long time.
He pointed out that older guys could get away with claiming to be more than they were, puffing up their military resume, in order to get respect or chicks. Who knows?
With the advent of the internet, however, lying about a nonexistent military record isn’t as easy.
You would think Fox News could have figured that one out before now.