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Daniel Funke
By Daniel Funke February 27, 2020
Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke February 27, 2020

Another claim questioning Pete Buttigieg’s military service is wrong

If Your Time is short

  • Pete Buttigieg joined the Navy Reserve in 2009 and was honorably discharged in 2017, according to military records. 
  • He was a Navy intelligence officer in Afghanistan for six months.
  • He wasn’t in combat but he took more than 90 trips outside secured military installations in Afghanistan. A photo of him not wearing his helmet with parking lots lines reflected in his sunglasses was taken on base.

Before he was a Democratic presidential candidate, Pete Buttigieg was the mayor of South Bend, Ind., and before that, he was an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy. 

But a recent Facebook post casts doubt on his military credentials as he seeks the nation’s highest office. 

The post shows three images. One is of Buttigieg standing in front of a barbed wire fence in a camouflage uniform holding a gun with a helmet on his arm. The second and third images are cropped closer around his face. 

"Some INTERESTING investigation of ‘Mayor Pete’ and his ‘military service’ photo being circulated here," the account writes. "1) LOOK AT THE GUN- This is NOT set up with ‘military’ sights. And it is NOT the type issued when ‘Pete’ was ‘deployed’. 2) Um…. No HELMET? The man is armed but NOT wearing his helmet? What DEPLOYED SOLDIER takes up arms without wearing their helmet in a hostile zone? 3) LOOK AT THE SUNGLASSES- The close up view shows PAVEMENT PAINTED LINES and A CAR FRONT END! This photograph was STAGED!!! This being known, I hereby label ‘Mayor Pete’ A FRAUD!!!"

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) 

We’ve already debunked claims that Buttigieg never served in the military. He was a Navy intelligence officer in Afghanistan for six months, according to military records his campaign provided to PolitiFact. News outlets have spoken to his commanding officers and fellow soldiers.

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He was sent to Afghanistan to join a task force called the Afghan Threat Finance Cell, according to ABC News. "We dealt with things like bank fraud, money laundering, extortion, kidnapping, human trafficking and the opium-heroin trade," said Army Reserve Col. Guy Hollingsworth, who was the task force’s military commander when Buttigieg arrived. Journal entries Hollingsworth shared with the network describe Buttigieg accompanying the colonel on trips to meetings around Afghanistan.

Paul Karweik, Buttigieg’s commanding officer after Hollingsworth, told ABC Buttigieg "knew the mission inside and out and he could articulate it well. … He was very organized, very disciplined." 

Buttigieg joined the Navy Reserve in 2009. He was a lead analyst tracking the flow of money to terrorist cells. He wasn’t in combat but he took more than 90 trips outside secured military installations in Afghanistan. He was honorably discharged in 2017. 

We asked Buttigieg’s campaign about the Facebook post. Sean Savett, a spokesman for Buttigieg, said Buttigieg was "inside the wire" in the photo, meaning he was on base, where he didn’t need to wear a helmet. As for the gun, Savett said, "it was typical for someone like him to not have a scope." There were also parking lots on base, he said, explaining the reflection in Buttigieg’s sunglasses.

In the photo, Buttigieg is clearly posing; this isn’t a candid shot. But that doesn’t mean it’s staged. Buttigieg’s military record is clear and convincing, while these claims are unfounded. 

We rate this post Pants on Fire.


Our Sources

Facebook post, Feb. 25, 2020

PolitiFact, Conspiracy that Buttigieg never served in the military is Pants on Fire!, Feb. 19, 2020

ABC News, From intel analyst to a military ‘Uber’: Inside Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s Afghanistan deployment, Aug. 8, 2019

Washington Post, How Pete Buttigieg went from war protester to ‘packing my bags for Afghanistan,’ July 29, 2019

Chicago Tribune, Pete Buttigieg touts his military service on campaign trail, but is careful not to overstate his role, Nov. 18, 2019

Interview with Sean Savett, rapid response communications director for Pete Buttigieg’s campaign, Feb. 26, 2020


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