Earlier this month, FOX News ran a glowing profile of John Garofalo, a 72-year-old veteran who claimed to have served as a decorated Navy SEAL in Vietnam and wanted to gift a giant glass presidential seal he made to President Trump. But the day after the story ran, an actual Navy SEAL reached out to the station to let it know that except for maybe his massive glass creation, everything about Garofalo’s story was fake.
The segment, which aired on October 8, stayed up for 11 days and went viral on Facebook, where it racked up more than 1.5 million views. Despite receiving at least two complaints from people who disputed Garofalo’s record on October 9 and 10, FOX didn’t take the piece down until Thursday, October 19, when it ran a retraction that stated “all of Garofalo’s claims turned out to be untrue.”
During the segment, anchor Bryan Llenas lauded Garofalo for earning 22 medals in the Vietnam War as a Navy SEAL, including two purple hearts, the Washington Post reports. Garofalo also told FOX that Trump “woke something up in me,” praising the president as someone who was “for the people.” When Llenas called Garofalo a “hero,” the 72-year-old responded by saying: “Heroes are the ones that didn’t come home.”
By October 9, Don Shipley—a retired SEAL who takes it upon himself to investigate phony service claims—had obtained records casting doubt on Garofalo’s story and reached out to FOX, according to the Navy Times. The Times then cross-checked the documents he dredged up, and confirmed that Garofalo had never served as a SEAL, never been to Vietnam, and never received all but one of the medals he displayed on FOX. (He did spend a stint in the Navy in the 60s as an aircraft handler, earning a National Defense Service Medal.)
Garofalo has since admitted to the Navy Times that he lied about his record, telling the paper he’s “ashamed” of what he did. “I didn’t mean to cause so much disgrace to the SEALs,” he said.
On Thursday, FOX finally took the piece down and ran a retraction, stating “all of Garofalo’s claims turned out to be untrue.”
“The fact is that he did not serve in Vietnam. He was never a US Navy SEAL. Even though he showed us medals, Garofalo was not awarded two Purple Hearts or any of the other nearly two dozen commendations he claimed to have received,” FOX wrote in its retraction. “We apologize to our viewers, especially veterans and servicemen and women.”
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