Washington Post Fact Checker Glenn Kessler “easily debunked” a story featured on Fox News host Sean Hannity’s website that at the end of the Gulf War, Donald Trump dispatched his personal plane to carry returning Marines home from Florida to North Carolina. Kessler explained that the GOP presidential nominee’s now-defunct airline company “had a contract with the military, and this flight home was part of that contract.” This occurred “at a time when Trump barely had control over the airline and was frantically trying to negotiate deals with bankers to prevent the collapse of his business empire.”
Hannity is one of Trump’s biggest shills in right-wing media. Hannity has consistently enabled and defended Trump’s lies and false statements, including his claim that the general election will be rigged, drawing extensive criticism from others in the media.
In an August 11 fact check of the story, which was posted on Hannity.com in May, Kessler explained, “Despite the rumors on base, it’s clear that Trump had nothing to do with the dispatch of the jet” to carry home returning Marines. Kessler awarded the Trump campaign “Four Pinocchios” -- the worst rating -- for confirming the story to Hannity.com and concluded that “Sean Hannity needs to prominently correct this article.” From the fact check:
It seemed like such a sweet story — Donald Trump sending his personal plane down to Camp Lejeune, N.C., when 200 Marines were stranded after fighting in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. At least that is the story that Sean Hannity of Fox News has touted on his website for several months.
The command chronology shows that 209 officers and Marines of the TOW Company (part of the 8th Tank Battalion for Operation Desert Shield) were activated on Nov. 26, 1990. The company arrived in Saudi Arabia on Dec. 22 and served through the end of March, before returning to Camp Lejeune. Stickney is listed as receiving a certificate of commendation.
After a few weeks in Camp Lejeune, the part-time soldiers were scheduled to return to their base in Broward County. An article in the Sun-Sentinel newspaper on the April 22 homecoming reported that it had been “marred by flight delays,” forcing well-wishers to wait for hours in the sun. The article said the Marines arrived on two flights, one at noon and one after 5 p.m.
“Stickney recalls being told that a mistake had been made within the logistics unit and that an aircraft wasn’t available to take the Marines home on their scheduled departure date,” Hannity.com reported. But then Trump supposedly came to the rescue: “The way the story was told to us was that Mr. Trump found out about it and sent the airline down to take care of us,” Stickney said.
So how did the Trump Shuttle end up in Camp Lejeune?
Well, it turns out when Trump bought the shuttle from Eastern Airlines, he made a bad deal, accepting an additional five planes instead of a lower purchase price because the market had turned south. As The Daily Beast noted, in an entertaining account of Trump’s foray into the airline business, “the shuttle needed only 16 planes to operate a full hourly schedule at its three cities, with one or two jets as spares, and extra aircraft are anathema to an airline — they don’t make money sitting on the ground.”
So some of those extra planes were contracted out to the U.S. military to ferry personnel in the United States during Operations Desert Shield/Storm in 1990-1991. Lt. Gen. Vernon J. Kondra, now retired, was in charge of all military airlift operations. He said that relying on commercial carriers freed up the military cargo aircraft for equipment transport.
But Kondra said that the notion that Trump personally arranged to help the stranded soldiers made little sense. “I certainly was not aware of that. It does not sound reasonable that it would happen like that. It would not fit in with how we did business,” he told The Fact Checker. “I don’t even know of how he would have known there was a need.”
Despite the rumors on base, it’s clear that Trump had nothing to do with the dispatch of the jet to Camp Lejeune. The aircraft that ferried the troops was part of the Trump Shuttle fleet, at a time when Trump barely had control over the airline and was frantically trying to negotiate deals with bankers to prevent the collapse of his business empire.
Trump Shuttle had a contract with the military and this flight home was part of that contract. Simple as that.
Sean Hannity needs to prominently correct this article. The Trump campaign, meanwhile, earns Four Pinocchios for confirming a story that is easily debunked.