A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Obama Snubbing Troops? False.

 Q: Did Obama snub U.S. troops in Afghanistan to shoot baskets for publicity pictures?

A: This is another viral e-mail falsehood. The author now says it’s not true; the Army says it’s not true; and video and photos show Obama shaking hands with troops and eating breakfast with them as well.


Is this e-mail true?

Hello everyone,

As you know I am not a very political person. I just wanted to pass along that Senator Obama came to Bagram Afghanistan for about an hour on his visit to ‘The War Zone’. I wanted to share with you what happened.

He got off the plane and got into a bullet proof vehicle, got to the area to meet with the Major General (2 Star) who is the commander here at Bagram.[EET ]

As the Soldiers where lined up to shake his hand he blew them off and didn’t say a word as he went into the conference room to meet the General. As he finished, the vehicles took him to the ClamShell (pretty much a big top tent that military personnel can play basketball or work out in with weights) so he could take his publicity pictures playing basketball. He again shunned the opportunity to talk to Soldiers to thank them for their service.

So really he was just here to make a showing for the American’s back home that he is their candidate for President. I think that if you are going to make an effort to come all the way over here you would thank those that are providing the freedom that they are providing for you.

I swear we got more thanks from the NBA Basketball Players or the Dallas Cowboy Cheer leaders than from one of the Senators, who wants to be the President of the United States. I just don’t understand how anyone would want him to be our Commander-and-Chief. It was almost that he was scared to
be around those that provide the freedom for him and our great country.

If this is blunt and to the point I am sorry but I wanted you all to know what kind of caliber of person he really is. What you see in the news is all fake.

CPT Jeffrey S. Porter
Battle Captain
TF Wasatch
American Soldier[/EET]


We received nearly 30 requests from readers within 48 hours asking us to either corroborate or debunk this e-mail. The claims it makes aren’t true. As reported by New York’s Daily News reporter James Gordon Meek, an Army spokeswoman at  Bagram said the claims are "factually incorrect" and that Obama "took time to shake hands, speak to troops and pose for photographs" during his July 20 visit. Meek also reported that the author of the e-mail, an Army National Guard captain at Bagram, later messaged the newspaper to say: "After checking my sources, information that was put out in my email was wrong."

No news organizations were allowed to accompany Obama on his visit to Afghanistan, which he took as part of an official congressional delegation. However, video released by the Department of Defense, included in this Associated Press report (below), show Obama eating breakfast with U.S. troops at Camp Eggers in Kabul, Afghanistan, just before his visit to Bagram.

A number of still photos also released by the Pentagon serve as further evidence that Obama schmoozed with troops while in Afghanistan. The photos (a few of which can be seen here, here and here) were provided to reporters by the Combined Security Transition Command responsible for working with the Afghan government and security forces to secure Afghanistan. They show Obama speaking to uniformed U.S. troops at Camp Eggers.

Shooting Hoops

The message also mentions that Obama shunned the troops "so he could take his publicity pictures playing basketball." However, the video to which the author refers, of Obama sinking a now-famous three-pointer, was taken a day earlier in Kuwait, not in Afghanistan. And Obama was hardly avoiding American troops at the time, as seen here. [Update, June 24, 2010: The video that originally appeared in this story has been removed from YouTube.]

Some photo captions in media reports had originally and erroneously reported that Obama played basketball in Afghanistan, but those captions have since been corrected.

"My email was wrong"

In some cases, the e-mail message is signed by a "CPT Jeffrey S. Porter," who claims to be with "TF Wasatch" or "Task Force Wasatch." According to the Daily News report, Porter is a Utah Army National Guard intelligence officer in a linguist unit at Bagram Airfield. But the official spokeswoman for Bagram, Army Lt. Col. Rumi Nielson-Green, told the News that the e-mail comments are "inappropriate and factually incorrect." The News quotes her as saying Obama "took time to shake hands, speak to troops and pose for photographs" and didn’t play basketball or even visit the Clamshell.

Later, News reporter Meek filed this on the newspaper’s Washington bureau blog, "Mouth of the Potomac":

NY Daily News: Now the Bagram captain is dialing back, having signed the viral e-mail with his name, rank and unit – a possible violation of military regulations barring political statements. This morning, he sent The Mouth a new statement (punctuation corrected):

“I am writing this to ask that you delete my email and not forward it. After checking my sources, information that was   put out in my email was wrong. This email was meant only for my family. Please respect my wishes and delete the email and if there are any blogs you have my email portrayed on I would ask if you would take it down too. Thanks for your understanding.”

An Army officer familiar with the incident told The Mouth today that the writer is “devastated that the letter was made public. It was never his intention that it go beyond members of his family.”

–Emi Kolawole


James Gordon Meek,"Army officials refute claim of Barack Obama snub in Afghanistan" New York Daily News 24 July 2008.

James Gordon Meek, "Obama-bashing G.I. retracts claim senator ‘blew off’ Afghanistan troops" Mouth of the Potomac news blog, New York Daily News 25 July 2008.