A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

American Legion’s Salute to Heroes Inaugural Ball


Q: Did Obama snub Medal of Honor recipients at the Inaugural Balls?

A: Obama is the first president since Eisenhower to miss the American Legion’s Salute to Heroes ball. A Legion spokesman says it "does not feel offended or ‘snubbed,’" and Medal of Honor recipients were invited to the Commander in Chief’s ball, which Obama did attend.

FULL QUESTION

Is this one true?

Obama blows off Medal of Honor recipients

Color me unsurprised. Of all the balls Obama attended for his HISTORIC inauguration, he didn’t feel it necessary to attend the Salute to Heroes Inaugural Ball, a ball started by President Eisenhower, attended by Presidents for 14 straight inaugurations. 56 years later, Obama broke that tradition because apparently mingling with all the celebrities was more important than greeting, say, the 48 Medal of Honor recipients at the Salute to Heroes ball. Yep, 48. Every other President since the ball was started was able to find time on Inauguration Day to go, but not Obama.

[EET ]Yeah, this guy loves the troops all right. Real respect for our military there. But hey, he did run on a platform of change, after all, and that sure is a change. For the first time in American history, we have a Commander-in-Chief who can’t even fake respect for our heroes who have fought, sacrificed, and died for their country.

Oh, and remember — don’t you ever, ever question his patriotism or his respect for the troops. Not ever.

That Dipshit Democrat needs to learn some respect for his betters….

…Someone should show him this pic and explain what it is and it’s significance. They may need to use words of one syllable.

So where was our new President instead of honoring Medal of Honor recipients who by some miracle are still alive? According to Huffington Post, this was his schedule for Inaugural celebrations;

Later that day, the Presidential Inaugural Committee will host 10 official inaugural balls:

 – Neighborhood Inaugural Ball at the Washington Convention Center .

 – Obama Home States ( Illinois and Hawaii ) Inaugural Ball at the Washington Convention Center .

 – Biden Home States ( Pennsylvania and Delaware ) Inaugural Ball at the Washington Convention Center .

 – Midwest Inaugural Ball at the Washington Convention Center .

 – Mid-Atlantic Inaugural Ball at the Washington Convention Center .

 – Western Inaugural Ball at the Washington Convention Center .

 – Commander in Chief’s Ball at the National Building Museum .

 – Southern Inaugural Ball at the National Guard Armory.

 – Eastern Inaugural Ball at Union Station.

 – Youth Inaugural Ball at the Washington Hilton.

Unofficial balls include:

 – Congressional Black Caucus Inaugural Ball at the Capitol Hilton.

 – Creative Coalition Inaugural Ball at the Harman Center for the Arts.

 – Recording Industry Association of America’s ball for Feeding America.

 – BET’s Inaugural Ball at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

 – Africa on the Potomac inaugural celebration at Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington , Va.

 – American Music Inaugural Ball at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel.

 – Inaugural Purple Ball at the Fairmont Hotel.

 – Human Rights Campaign’s Equality Ball at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel.

 – Inaugural Peace Ball at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum.

 – Impact Film Fund ball. [/EET]

FULL ANSWER

It is true that Obama did not attend the Salute to Heroes Inaugural Ball, and that his absence broke a 14-inauguration streak. Vice President Joe Biden did attend the ball, showing up around 11:30. American Legion spokesperson Craig Roberts told FactCheck.org that the president, vice president and first lady have all traditionally attended.

The American Legion released two statements on the matter, saying that "The Legion does not feel offended or ‘snubbed’ by the President’s failure to appear," expressing gratitude for Biden’s appearance, and adding that "there are much more important issues to dwell on."

We reproduce both statements here, just as they were e-mailed to us from the Legion:

Original statement from American Legion National Adjutant Dan Wheeler: The American Legion, as it has on every inauguration evening since 1953, hosted the Salute to Heroes Inaugural Banquet & Ball on January 20th . The quadrennial event is co-sponsored by fourteen veterans service and military service organizations and honors recipients of the Medal of Honor. Forty-seven of these heroes attended this year’s event. President Obama was invited but did not attend. Vice-President Joe Biden did appear, however, and was very warmly received. From The American Legion’s point of view, the new President’s absence was understandable considering the unprecedented logistical challenges presented by the vastly increased number of visitors to this inauguration and the necessary attendant security measures. The National Adjutant of The American Legion states that, as an organization, The Legion does not feel offended or “snubbed” by the President’s failure to appear.

Second statement from Mr. Wheeler, Jan. 26, 2009: We extended an invitation as we always do. There are numerous Balls and we know he can’t attend them all. Of course, we would have loved for him to make an appearance, but he didn’t. It’s a logistical nightmare. He did meet with the troops at the Commander In Chief’s Ball, and we are grateful for that. Our Ball wasn’t about the President; it was about the Medal of Honor recipients and the veterans and families who were there. We are grateful that the Vice President appeared, and our guests were very appreciative.

That having been said, there are much more important issues to dwell on, which we intend to do. We look forward to working with the new administration on ensuring full and guaranteed funding for VA health care services, and the very best treatment for our service people who have been wounded, and on the quality of life of all members of the Armed Forces and their families, as well as the maintenance of a national security force that will deter any enemy from considering an attack on America.

We have asked the White House for comment on this matter, and will update this article should we receive a response.

Update, Jan. 27: Shortly after we posted this story, we heard from Josh Earnest of the Presidential Inaugural Committee. He told us that the president only attended the 10 official balls organized by the PIC. (The Salute to Heroes is organized by the American Legion and is unofficial.) But, Earnest told us, "in order to show due respect to the Medal of Honor winners, they were special guests at the Commander in Chief’s ball," which the president attended early in the evening. Earnest didn’t know how many Medal of Honor recipients accepted the invitation to the Commander in Chief’s ball, which is primarily targeted to military personnel, but added that the PIC also subsidized hotel rooms and provided ground transportation for the recipients while they were in DC. We’ve updated our answer summary accordingly.

-Jess Henig

Correction, Jan. 30: We originally referred to Medal of Honor recipients as "winners." The correct terminology is "recipients."