Right-wing media are circulating a false claim about what should have simply stood as a touching moment, when a 98-year-old World War II veteran played the national anthem at the start of a U.S. women’s soccer game.
But in the telling of right-wing media outlets, players were either disrespectfully turning away to the side — or disrespectfully facing forward. Either way, they say, it was bad.
Turning to the side was “disgraceful”
This started with a tweet Monday night from far-right site The Post-Millennial, denouncing the “disgraceful behaviour from some members of the U.S. Women's National Team as they turn their backs” on DuPré.
However, as team member Carli Lloyd replied, the players who turned were in fact facing the American flag during the anthem.
The U.S. Soccer Federation tweeted back: “Not true. No one turned their back on WWII Veteran Pete DuPré during tonight's anthem. Some USWNT players were simply looking at the flag on a pole in one end of the stadium.” The U.S. Soccer Women’s National Team account also tweeted a video of team members greeting DuPré after the game and signing a ball for him:
Facing forward was “disrespectful,” too
However, right-wing media outlets also came up with a narrative by which team members facing forward, in the direction of DuPré’s harmonica playing, was a similarly monstrous act.
In a perfect example of this heads-I-win-tails-you-lose approach, Newsmax’s Wake Up America host Rob Finnerty on Tuesday morning attacked two team members, both women of color, for actually facing forward in the direction of DuPré playing his harmonica.
“Two of the players, Crystal Dunn and Christen Press, appear to be turning their backs on the American flag while Pete DuPré, a 98-year-old World War II veteran — there’s the two soccer players right there, you see the rest of the soccer team is facing one direction,” said Finnerty. “They’re facing toward the flag. Those two players right there, Crystal Dunn, Christen Press, are facing away from the flag.”
Panel member Amy Tarkanian then called the two team members “a couple of disrespectful punks, and that’s putting it nicely,” for purportedly disrespecting the sacrifices of veterans. “And the fact that those two women are even allowed and given the freedom to play their sport of choice, they should be thanking their lucky stars and kissing the ground, and thanking that 98-year-old veteran for them being able to do whatever it is that they would like to do.”
An online article from Newsmax also accused Dunn and Press of having “protested” the 98-year-old veteran’s rendition of the anthem. In addition, a tweet from former Trump administration official and current Newsmax commentator Richard Grenell accused the two players of having “turned away” from both the flag and the elderly veteran.
Just to be clear on this point again: Dunn, Press, and other players who faced forward were looking at DuPré, while the other team members who faced to the side were looking at an American flag.
Indeed, even The Post-Millennial has altered its own headline to reflect the changing reasons for condemning the players.
The point of right-wing media’s manufactured outrage is just to trash the American women’s team
Fox News has long attacked athletes for kneeling during the national anthem, in protests over racial inequality — so much so, that the network once falsely used other photos of players who were actually praying during a game. And this pattern continued on Fox’s purported “straight news” program America’s Newsroom on Tuesday, when co-anchor Dana Perino spoke with Fox Bet sports host Clay Travis about this video.
While Perino gave the explanation that players were facing a flag, Travis then chimed in to essentially declare the players guilty by accusation, blaming them for the fact that people would be saying such a thing about them in the first place.
At the end of the segment, Perino remarked that Travis had “made some great points there.”
Fox’s website also posted an article seemingly debunking the fake outrage — in addition to carrying the league’s explanation, the article notes that Dunn was among the players who later greeted DuPré and autographed the ball for him.
However, Fox’s homepage simply carries more right-wing clickbait with the heading “Video Sparks Outrage” — that is, fake outrage.