Two weeks ago, Fox News broadcast a story about a glass artist named John Garofalo, who claimed to be a Vietnam veteran and Navy SEAL with two Purple Hearts. But, Fox News failed to fact check his claims of a heroic war past, because he wasn’t a Vietnam vet or a SEAL, and he hadn’t been awarded the Purple Heart once, much less twice. Although his claims turned out to be false, the network, which was quickly alerted about the error, only corrected its original story late last week.
Garafolo fessed up to faking his war credentials in an interview with military news site Navy Times, admitting, “What I did I’m ashamed of, and I didn’t mean to cause so much disgrace to the SEALs.” Garafalo had been in the Navy, but his claims about serving in Vietnam and as a SEAL were bogus. According to Navy Times, retired SEAL Don Shipley first busted Garofalo’s lie, pointing to Garofalo’s military records, and complaining about the error to Fox News Oct. 9, the day after the report first aired.
Fox News corrected its story Oct. 19, eleven days after its original report. The ethics gold standard is to post corrections quickly and fully; not as many readers often see the correction as the original error.
The original story featured Fox News’ Bryan Llenas stating of Garafolo, “The Vietnam war veteran served seven years as a member of the nation’s first Navy SEAL team. He was awarded 22 commendations, including two Purple Hearts.”
iMediaEthics wrote to Fox News to ask if the correction was broadcast, what verification Fox News attempted before publishing the original report and why the correction was published Oct. 19 if Shipley flagged the error Oct. 9. Fox News pointed to the correction on its website, which includes video of the on-air correction.
The correction reads:
“On Sunday, Oct. 8, Fox News Channel aired a story about John Garofalo, a glass artist who created a presidential glass seal in the hopes of gifting it to President Trump.“Garofalo claimed he was a Vietnam veteran, a member of the first U.S. Navy SEAL team, and a decorated war hero who was awarded two Purple Hearts.
“Unfortunately, all of Garofalo’s claims turned out to be untrue. The fact is that he did not serve in Vietnam. He was never a U.S. Navy SEAL. Even though he showed us medals, Garofalo was not awarded two Purple Hearts or any of the other nearly two dozen commendations he claimed to have received, except for the National Defense Service Medal.“It is true that Garafalo is a glass artist and a veteran. He served in Spain and he gifted two presidential seals to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
Over the last two weeks, we’ve worked with Garofalo’s family and the National Personnel Records Center to get to the bottom of a military past that Garofalo had claimed to be covert.
We apologize to our viewers, especially veterans and servicemen and women.”