Whatever you think of him and his often-misguided policies, President Joe Biden has endured a major amount of tragedy.
His first wife and little daughter were killed in a car accident just as his long political career was starting. In 2015, Biden lost his son, Beau, to brain cancer.
Biden has often invoked Beau and his military service as a way to relate to military veterans and staunch patriots. Yet many of those tales are fudged, whether out of cynicism or a failure of recollection. Another one arose on Wednesday.
Biden was in Colorado to dedicate the Camp Hale Continental Divide as a national monument.
Camp Hale was a site where U.S. soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division trained in preparation for operations in Europe during World War II.
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According to The Washington Examiner, the president used the military connection to the new monument to recall Beau, a former Delaware attorney general, and Army National Guardsman.
“Beau,” said Biden, “lost his life in Iraq.”
That didn’t happen.
Beau Biden was deployed to Iraq for a yearlong tour beginning in 2008.
In 2013, he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer. Cancer killed him in 2015. The former Army major died at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
A generous interpretation of Biden’s remarks on Wednesday would allow that, as he regularly claimed while running for president, is that Beau Biden’s illness was caused by his exposure to burn pits while serving in Iraq.
The president has qualified that comment by saying he cannot prove it.
In 2019, FactCheck.org, in one of the rare moments when “fact-checkers” adversely grade Democrats, analyzed Biden’s assertion and ruled that he had exaggerated the science of burn pits and the connection to brain cancer.
At issue was Biden’s comment that “more people are coming home from Iraq with brain cancer” than “any other war.” He added at the time, “We’re in a situation where there’s a direct connection between those burn pits and — and — and taking in that — that — that all that toxin that’s available.”
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But FactCheck.org determined at best that the evidence was inconclusive.
Experts interviewed by FactCheck.org noted that brain cancer is both rare and its cause is little understood. Studies show brain cancer does not appear more frequently among others exposed similarly to burning objects, such as firefighters and workers close to incinerated products.
As FactCheck.org concluded, “Although future studies may eventually come out to change scientific opinion, there is no direct evidence that burn pits cause brain cancer, and no indication that Iraq War veterans are especially affected by brain cancer, as Biden claimed.”
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