Jen Psaki forced to retract false book claim that Biden did not check his watch during ceremony for US troops slain in Afghanistan – New York Post

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Ex-White House press secretary Jen Psaki is being forced to retract a false claim in her new book that President Biden did not check his watch during the dignified transfer of 13 US troops killed in the Afghanistan withdrawal.

In her May 2024 book “Say More,” Psaki attacked her former boss’s critics, who she said seized on the cringe-worthy moment to make “him appear insensitive, concerned only about how much time had passed,” claiming he “only looked at his watch after the ceremony had ended.”

Axios first reported on the book’s inaccuracy. Photos, videos and media fact-checkers at the time of the ceremony had already confirmed Biden’s snub of the fallen troops’ families.

Gold Star families whose loved ones were among the 13 US troops killed amid the Biden administration’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan ripped ex-White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday for falsely claiming in her new book that the president did not check his watch during the dignified transfer of their loved ones’ bodies. Getty Images
A transfer case with the remains of Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss, 23, of Corryton, Tennessee, are carried off of a military aircraft as US President Joe Biden attends the dignified transfer at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware, August, 29, 2021. AFP via Getty Images

Psaki later acknowledged to Axios that the “detail in a few lines of the book about the exact number of times he looked at his watch will be removed in future reprints and the ebook” — without commenting on her claim’s inaccuracy.

“The story on Afghanistan is really about the importance of delivering feedback even when it is difficult told through my own experience of telling President Biden that his own story of loss was not well received by the families who were grieving their sons and daughters,” Psaki added to the outlet.

A press rep for Scribner, which published the White House tell-all, confirmed to The Post that the text “will be corrected in the e-book and future printings, due to inaccuracies as originally written.”

Six Gold Star family members in an exclusive interview with The Post on Monday had demanded a retraction and an apology from Psaki for inaccurately writing that the highly watched moment was nothing more than “misinformation.”

“It needs to be removed,” said Darin Hoover, whose son, Marine Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover, 31, was killed in the blast from an ISIS-K suicide bombing at Hamid Karzai International Airport’s Abbey Gate in Kabul.

Psaki published the false claim in her new book “Say More.” Simon&Shuster

“To go and put this in the book and memorialize it for all to see is nothing short of disgusting. I mean, it’s reprehensible to me,” Hoover said.

Coral Briseno, the mother of Marine Cpl. Humberto Sanchez, 22, said, “We are not liars. We’re just seeking for justice for our kids. And we are not trying to make this up.

“We’re not trying to make anybody look bad. We don’t care if it was Trump or if it was Biden,” she added, saying it had shown “disrespect for our families, for our loved ones and for the people that die for this country.”

Axios first reported on the inaccuracy, but photos, videos and media fact-checkers contemporaneously confirmed Biden’s snub of the fallen troops’ families. AFP via Getty Images

Reps for MSNBC, where Psaki migrated to in March 2023 to host “Inside with Jen Psaki” after leaving her $180,000-per-year press role at the White House the preceding May, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Steve Nikoui, who was arrested in March for shouting his slain son’s name at Biden in the middle of the State of the Union address, thundered that the White House and ex-administration aides such as Psaki “want to forget about this.

“They don’t want anything of that day or that time or that whole evacuation to [come to] light at all. And so any chance that it comes up, they shut it down — immediately,” said the father of Marine Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, 20.

“[If] the American people want to keep these people in office or keep these people on television and support them and give them, you know, multimillion-dollar jobs, well, then they have to answer for that when they die. Not me,” he added.

Six Gold Star family members in an exclusive interview with The Post demanded a retraction and apology from Psaki. AP

Mark Schmitz, the father of 20-year-old Marine Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, pointed out Biden’s crass behavior during an August 2023 roundtable with Gold Star families in the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“Not only does she owe us an apology, she needs to take that story down,” Schmitz said of Psaki. “I blasted Biden about the watch deal at the family roundtable, and I brought it up several times in numerous interviews. Jen Psaki’s full of s–t.”

Asked whether the former White House press flack should face consequences for the falsehood, the military families all agreed.

“We are not liars. We’re just seeking for justice for our kids. And we are not trying to make this up,” said Coral Briseno, the mother of slain Marine Cpl. Humberto Sanchez, 22. AP

“She was 100% out of line saying that. She wasn’t there,” Schmitz said. “Her only motive would be personal, financial or political — and at the cost of our emotions. And the last thing we need is to have this relived yet again, and here we are.”

Some of the relatives of the fallen service members met with Biden, now 81, before the Aug. 29, 2021, ceremony at Dover Air Force Base, Del. — but none of the six who spoke with The Post have since been granted an audience with the president.

Briseno said Biden had appeared “lost” during their interaction and called her “Mrs. Lopez,” the mother of Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, and then turned to Alicia Lopez and referred to her as “Mrs. Sanchez,” using the last name of Briseno’s son.

“To go and put this in the book and memorialize it for all to see is nothing short of disgusting,” said Darin Hoover, whose son, Marine Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover, 31, was killed in the blast from an ISIS-K suicide bombing at Abbey Gate. AP

All the mourning families also called on Biden and the White House to break years of silence about the botched bugout from Kabul.

“He is the responsible for the death of our children and for all those Afghans,” Nikoui said. “I don’t know how else to say, ‘It hurts.’ It’s devastating.”

Cheryl Juels, the aunt of Maine Sgt. Nicole Gee, added, “It should have been like this is what happened. No, we were doing it the best we could at the time, but in the future, we want to figure out what happened so we don’t ever let this happen again.

Steve Nikoui, who was arrested in March for shouting his slain son’s name at Biden in the middle of the State of the Union address, thundered Monday that the White House and ex-administration aides like Psaki “want to forget about this.” CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

“This shouldn’t be a partisan issue,” she added. “If you’re sitting in that office and you screw up — you got to frickin’ own it and make corrections, you got to right the ship, you know, and instead their whole goal is just nothing but cover up. … Whatever happened to ‘the most transparent administration?’ “

Internal reports by the Biden administration have faulted its “abrupt” and unplanned evacuation of diplomats and military members from Kabul — without placing responsibility on any single official.

Christy Shamblin, whose daughter-in-law is Gee, said she and the others didn’t expect an apology — but they won’t stay silent or stop searching for accountability while there are other US soldiers who could be in harm’s way.

“She was 100% out of line saying that. She wasn’t there,” said Mark Schmitz, the father of 20-year-old Marine Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz. AP

“We as America, as the United States of America, are better than this,” Shamblin said. “When we run an evacuation after all of the ones that we’ve done now — because the world calls on us when they need [to be] rescued — we can’t continue to screw them up by killing our own people and the very people that we’re trying to rescue!

“It’s maddening, and we can do better,” she added. There are better people in leadership who need to be promoted, instead of the people who failed this time. And we need a new crew of leaders to come take shape.”

Christy Shamblin, whose daughter-in-law is Gee, said she and the others didn’t expect an apology — but they won’t stay silent or stop searching for accountability while there are other US soldiers who could be in harm’s way. AP

The Post reached out to the White House for comment.

“Jen Psaki is still cleaning up on Aisle Biden — but this was a lie too far,” said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who brought Gold Star families to this year’s State of the Union, to The Post. “White House apologists have never told the truth about their Afghanistan debacle, but here’s hoping overdue accountability is on the way.”

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