Fox News published blatantly false accusations from a Republican congressman that the Department of Defense had forced the family of a slain Marine to pay out-of-pocket for the transportation of remains. Fox's story faced widespread and immediate pushback from defense outlets, and was eventually deleted without a formal correction or retraction. Yet the false story spread widely among other right-wing media and GOP politicians before Fox deleted the story, and the network waited a month to publicly apologize to the Marine’s family. This Fox hoax follows another incident in May, in which Fox widely spread a fake New York Post story claiming that veterans were ejected from temporary housing to make room for migrants.
Fox News published a false accusation that the Pentagon forced a Gold Star family to pay $60,000 for the transportation of remains
As U.S. and NATO forces withdrew from Afghanistan in August 2021, and conducted massive airlift operations to evacuate civilians fleeing the Taliban, at least one suicide bomber killed 13 American service members and as many as 170 civilians outside at crowded entry gate at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. One of the American Marines killed, Sgt. Nicole Gee, had previously been photographed tending to a wounded baby at the airport and had spoken positively of her role in the evacuation effort. Her remains arrived in her hometown of Roseville, California, on August 29 of that year, and were later transported to Arlington National Cemetery and laid to rest.
- On July 25, a Fox News Digital article claimed that Gee’s family was “forced to pay to ship” the body of a slain Marine. In the article — which has since been deleted from Fox’s website — Rep. Cory Mills (R-FL) told Fox that he was “enraged to learn that the Department of Defense had placed a heavy financial burden” on Gee’s family, which secured the $60,000 transportation fee from a nonprofit organization. [Fox News Digital, 7/25/23 via Internet Archive]
- Mills linked to the Fox article in a social media post and wrote, “At no time should our Gold Star families be financially responsible for burying their loved ones and American heroes.” [Twitter/X, 7/25/23]
Military-focused news outlets were quick to refute the claims in the Fox story
News outlets focused on the military, veterans, and service families were the first to speak with Gee’s family directly about the false Fox story, and quickly pushed back on Mill’s false claims. Their reporting made clear that Fox neglected to fact-check or substantiate his statements.
- Statements from the Marine’s family first reported by the military-focused publication Task & Purpose asserted that the family never contacted the Department of Defense about financing the relocation, nor received any bills. Task & Purpose contacted Gee's family and was first to report their statements refuting Fox’s story. The statements were later confirmed by The Sacramento Bee, the family's hometown newspaper. The family stated that the flight was organized and “donated” by a non-profit organization and a Pentagon representative confirmed that the military had “no record of any incurred charges or any pending requests for reimbursement associated with the transportation of Sgt. Gee’s remains to Arlington National Cemetery.” [Task & Purpose, 7/26/23]
- The Marine Corps Times repeated the family statements collected by Task & Purpose and further clarified that there was “no record of any such cost for the family” over the transportation and burial of the remains. Its coverage specifically called out both Mills and Rep. Kevin Kiley (R-CA) for attacking the Department of Defense over the nonsense claims. [Marine Corps Times, 7/27/23]
Fox quietly scrubbed the false report and eventually apologized to the family
After pressure from the Marine Corps, and nearly a month of back and forth between representatives from the network and the Department of Defense, Fox issued an apology to the fallen Marine’s family for the false story – but never published a correction.
- Fox News, according to Military.com, edited the article’s headline and content “without noting a correction,” and later removed the entire article containing Mills’ original false claims. Military.com further reported that after Gee’s family said they were never billed by the Pentagon and refuted Mills’ false claims, he issued a statement on July 27 claiming that the family was “confused in their time of grief” and continued to attack the Department of Defense. [Military.com, 7/28/23]
- Military.com also detailed the Marine Corps’ month-long attempt to convince Fox to retract and correct its “false” story. According to Military.com, a spokesperson for the Marine Corps had requested that Fox News apologize directly to the family and insisted that Fox fully correct its false story. Maj. James Stenger wrote in an email to Fox after it changed its article, “This headline correction is still misleading and your story is still false.” He also wrote that Fox was “using the grief of a family member of a fallen Marine to score cheap clickbait points.” [Military.com, 8/23/23; The Washington Post, 8/27/23]
- On August 26, CNN reported that Fox News had finally apologized to Gee’s family, with a network spokesperson asserting that the false story had been “addressed internally.” Although Fox had scrubbed the article from its site at least a month prior, there has been no formal retraction or correction issued. Fox, in a statement, said, “We sincerely apologize to the Gee family” and said its fake story was “now unpublished.” [CNN, 8/26/23]
Right-wing media ran with Fox’s story before it was deleted
Although searches of the SnapStream video database showed that Fox News never aired this false story on its cable programs, many other right-wing media outlets picked up the story and used it to attack the Biden administration. This included conservative social media figures, right-wing blogs, and Fox competitors Newsmax and One America News. Right-wing media often used the story as a vehicle to pursue their own petty criticisms of the Biden administration’s policies, including attacking health care for transgender military personnel, criticizing military aid to Ukraine to defend itself against the ongoing Russian invasion, and objecting to reimbursement for military personnel travel costs for abortion care.
- Chronicles Magazine editor Pedro L. Gonzalez: “The family of Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan, was forced to come up with $60,000 to transport Gee’s remains to Arlington National Cemetery because the Pentagon wouldn’t pay for it.” [Twitter/X, 7/25/23]
- Talk radio host Dana Loesch: “One of the 13 Gold Star families who lost their daughter in Afghanistan was forced to pay to ship her body back — until nonprofit stepped in to pay $60,000 to move Marine Corps Sgt Nicole Gee's remains to Arlington National Cemetery.” [Twitter/X, 7/25/23]
- The Right Scoop: “HORRIBLE: Biden Pentagon FORCED Gold Star family to pay to ship fallen Marine killed in Afghan withdrawal to Arlington.” The article added: “What a freaking slap in the face!” [The Right Scoop, 7/25/23]
- The anti-LGBTQ account Libs of TikTok posted: “The Biden admin is funding drag shows in Equador but refused to pay to bring a dead Marine’s body home.” [Twitter/X, 7/26/23]
- Former Fox producer Kyle Becker: “NEW: The military community is furious at the Biden administration upon discovering a Gold Star Family was forced to bear the cost of transporting its slain daughter's remains after she was killed serving her country in Afghanistan.” [Twitter/X, 7/26/23]
- Newsmax host Chris Salcedo: “The family of a fallen service member killed during Biden's disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal says they were forced to pay thousands of dollars to move the body of their loved one to their final resting place.” Salcedo concluded, “Another sign of how far our government has fallen.” [Newsmax, The Chris Salcedo Show, 7/26/23]
- Newsmax host Carl Higbie introduced a segment pushing the fake story, saying, “This one’s actually near and dear to me as a veteran.” Higbie said that the fake story that Gee’s family “was forced to pay 60 grand” to bury her in Arlington National Cemetery “will permanently tarnish the reputation of our Defense Department” and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. Newsmax’s Dick Morris joined in the outrage. [Newsmax, Carl Higbie Frontline, 7/26/23]
- OAN host Dan Ball reported the “disturbing details” that Gee’s family “had to pay to have her remains moved,” and applauded Mills “for finding this out, for bringing this to the nation’s attention.” Ball lamented that legitimate news organizations weren’t covering the story at the time, linked the false story to a decline in American patriotism, and interviewed a Republican congressional candidate about the fake story. The candidate used the false story to rant against medical care for transgender military personnel. [OAN, Real America with Dan Ball, 7/26/23]
- Talk radio host Lars Larson: “Joe Biden is now giving billions for Ukraine but nothing for a vet who died protecting our nation?” On his radio show, Larson repeated the lie that Gee’s family “was denied the usual support by the Pentagon for transportation of her remains to her final resting place in Arlington.” Larson added, “This is absolutely crazy,” and claimed that the Biden administration is undercutting and dishonoring military personnel. [Alpha Media, The Lars Larson Show, 7/26/23]
- Townhall: “Family of Marine killed in Afghanistan forced to pay $60,000 bill thanks to Biden Pentagon policy change.” [Townhall, 7/26/23]
- The Western Journal: “Family of Marine killed in Afghanistan stuck with $60,000 bill after Pentagon policy change.” [The Western Journal, 7/26/23]
- Gateway Pundit: “As Joe Biden slept: Family of slain Marine at Kabul airport was forced to fundraise $60,000 to move daughter’s remains to Arlington Cemetery.” [Gateway Pundit, 7/26/23]
- Townhall: “Biden cut a massive check to Ukraine after forcing a family to pay $60,000 to move soldier’s remains.” [Townhall, 7/27/23]
- The Federalist: “For the Pentagon, subsidizing abortions takes priority over transporting service members to their final resting place.” [The Federalist, 7/27/23]
- Salcedo returned to the fake story to discuss a lack of veterans benefits with a guest. Introducing the author of a book about veterans benefits, Salcedo asked, “Is this how far our elected leaders and our government have fallen?” [Newsmax, The Chris Salcedo Show, 7/28/23]
Numerous Republican lawmakers and officials also promoted the fake story
Like many of the right-wing media outlets that shared the false story, Republican lawmakers used it to air their grievances about the provision of health care to military personnel, the administration’s immigration policy, and military aid to Ukraine.
- Rep. Mark Green (R-TN): “So we are paying to fly illegal immigrants to the destination of their choice but we can’t fly a hero’s body home? This administration is totally lost.” [Twitter/X, 7/25/23]
- Rep. Eli Crane (R-AZ): “Biden’s Pentagon is eager to fund abortion travel, genital mutilations & a proxy war in Europe. But when a Marine was killed during the Admin’s botched Afghanistan withdrawal, her family was forced to pay to move her body. Despicable.” [Twitter/X, 7/25/23]
- Florida GOP Chairman Christian Ziegler: “Really great work by Florida Congressman @CoryMillsFL on this!” [Twitter/X, 7/25/23]
- Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL): “The Pentagon is providing taxpayer funding for elective abortions, but not to transport our fallen heroes to their final resting place. This just shows how extreme the Pentagon’s unprecedented new abortion policy really is.” [Twitter/X, 7/26/23]
- Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL): “This is sickening. Thank you to Honoring Our Fallen, a group that stepped up amid the Biden Administration’s absence.” [Twitter/X, 7/26/23]
- Rep. Burgess Owens (R-UT): “Under Biden's new Pentagon policy, a Gold Star Family was left to pay to transport and bury their loved one at Arlington National Cemetery. Absolutely despicable.” [Twitter/X, 7/26/23]
- Rep. Rich McCormick (R-GA): “Unacceptable. Congress cannot allow this to happen again.” [Twitter/X, 7/26/23]
- Rep. Kevin Kiley (R-CA): “Sergeant Nicole Gee is an American hero who lost her life in the Afghanistan withdrawal. It is unfathomable that the Pentagon would decline to cover the cost of transporting her to her final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery.” The letter that Kiley attached to his social media post was cited by Sacramento media outlets, which mistakenly pushed the false story. [Twitter/X, 7/26/23]
Fox and related media outlets previously spread a hoax that veterans were kicked out of housing in New York
Fox’s creation of this fake story near the second anniversary of the Afghanistan withdrawal echoes another bogus story in which the New York Post — which, like Fox News, is a Murdoch media property — falsely reported that homeless veterans were kicked out of hotels to make room for asylum-seekers. Fox widely covered that hoax before airing multiple similar retractions within days. Although multiple Fox programs aired retractions, some others continued to promote the fake story as genuine even after Mid Hudson News, a local news outlet, had completely debunked it.