The White House said Thursday it stands by the Medal of Honor presentation to Marine Sergeant Dakota Meyer a day after a newspaper story appeared to cast doubts over the battlefield events that led to the award.
The McClatchy Newspapers article reported statements that led to Meyer being awarded the medal were exaggerated. According to the Marine Corps, Meyer saved 13 American and two dozen Afghan lives during a 2009 ambush in Afghanistan.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Meyer's story is solid, and that it has been carefully vetted by the Marines and Defense Department.
"[T]he process of vetting for Medal of Honor -- proposed Medal of Honor recipients is, as I understand it, quite extensive and thorough," Carney said. "The president was very proud to present the Medal of Honor to Sergeant Meyer. He was that day and he remains proud day of his extraordinary service."
Carney added that within hours another McClatchy article was published clarifying that Meyer deserved the medal. While the original article pointed out discrepancies in official accounts of the story, the second quoted other Marines who say Meyer is deserving of the honor.
"I got a little whiplash reading the two articles that McClatchy put out," he said. "One said one thing; the other said the other. What the president believes is exactly what I said, and that -- that this young man is the best of a generation that has served through a decade of war, and he was proud to present him the Medal of Honor."
But as the questioning continued, one reporter in the briefing room seized on Carney's point about conflicting articles, noting that Carney himself is a former journalist on the White House beat and questioning the White House's commitment to making sure Meyer's story is truthful.
"I simply made clear, in answer to the question, that the same reporter who wrote that story posted a story shortly after that expansively cited testimony from Mr. Meyer's own comrades..." Carney said.
President Obama presented the award to Meyer in an East Room ceremony at the White House in September. He recounted the battlefield story before presenting the medal.