Fact Check

John Kerry Snubbed in Iraq

Photograph shows Senator John Kerry eating alone in a mess hall after being snubbed by U.S. troops in Iraq.

Published Jan 3, 2007


Claim:   Photograph shows Senator John Kerry eating alone in a mess hall after being snubbed by U.S. troops in Iraq.

Status:   Real photograph; inaccurate description.

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, 2006]

Check out this photo from our mess hall at the US Embassy yesterday morning. Sen. Kerry found himself all alone while he was over here. He cancelled his press conference because no one came, he worked out alone in the gym w/o any soldiers even going up to say hi or ask for an autograph, and he found himself eating breakfast with only a couple of folks who are obviously not troops.

What is amazing is Bill O'Reilly came to visit with us and the troops at the CSH the same day and the line for autographs extended through the palace and people waited for two hours to shake his hand. You decide who is more respected and loved by us servicemen and women!

Origins:   In mid-December 2006, Senator John Kerry undertook

a nine-day Middle East tour, during which he spent two days in Iraq conferring with U.S. and British officers in Basra and with American troops in Diyala province.

The photograph reproduced above showing Senator Kerry in a mess hall on 17 December 2006 is indeed a picture taken during his December 2006 visit to Iraq, where by some accounts he met with a chilly reception from some U.S. military personnel (including, presumably, those angered by his infamous "botched joke" a month earlier).

This image doesn't capture the senator eating alone due to his being snubbed by U.S. troops, however. First of all, he isn't eating alone. (He's obviously talking to people who are sitting to his left just outside the frame of photograph.) Moreover, Kerry staffer Frank Lowenstein (who said he was present when the photo was snapped) reported that the picture wasn't taken during an "eat with the troops" event, but rather during an off-the-record breakfast discussion with newspaper reporters for which the small group deliberately sought out an empty table so they could converse in private:

I was there when the photo was taken. I traveled with Sen. Kerry throughout his Middle East trip. I'm his foreign policy staffer. Myself and Major McKnight were sitting right there when this photo was snapped.

Snubbed? Alone? Hardly. Sen. Kerry isn't eating alone. In fact that photo is at an off the record breakfast meeting Senator Kerry conducted early Sunday morning with the very real Marc Santora of the New York Times Baghdad bureau and his younger colleague from the newspaper.

The man shown in the green shirt across from Sen. Kerry is Marc Santora. Right after that interview was completed, Senator Kerry videotaped a message expressing his and the country's support for the troops, to be shown on the armed services network in Iraq. Just the night before, Sen. Kerry was in that very same mess hall at a table where he ate dinner with about 10 U.S. soldiers.

Additionally, Senator Kerry spent nearly a day and half (out of two days in Iraq) outside of the Green Zone because he felt strongly that he wanted to hear from troops on the front lines. On Saturday morning, he greeted U.S. soldiers in Basra, and also met many British troops while he was there. On Saturday afternoon, he flew to FOB (Forward Operating Base) Warhorse, where he had a town hall meeting with over 100 soldiers. On Sunday morning, he was briefed by U.S. commanders at a training camp for Iraqi security forces. On Sunday evening, he traveled to another FOB where he had a long dinner in the camp mess hall with soldiers, including many from Massachusetts.

Later reports indicated that Lowenstein's description was a little bit off: The man sitting across from Kerry in the photo is not Marc Santora but Mark Danner, another reporter from New York who accompanied Santora on the trip to Iraq:

Danner confirmed to me that he's the guy with his back to the camera, saying his jacket and the back of his head looked the same as in the photo. He added that his position in relation to Kerry was the same as the photo showed. And here's what Danner had to say to me about the empty seats: "If there were empty seats it's because we sought them out. We wanted an empty table so we could talk. It's that simple."

Told that the Kerry people had confirmed that the meeting was an off-the-record talk with reporters, Danner replied: "The discussion was off the record, but given the fact that the Kerry people have confirmed it, I suppose it's all right if I confirm it."

"Santora was to my right," Danner also said. "It was very early in the morning at about 8:30, in the green zone. The reason that people weren't sitting directly around us was that we were having a private conversation." Asked if the troops showed animosity to Kerry, Danner said: "Not in any way that I noticed. A number of soldiers came up and asked to have their photograph taken with him."

Last updated:   10 January 2007

  Sources Sources:

    Associated Press.   "Kerry: Iraq Visit Helped Focus His Views."

    The Washington Post.   16 December 2006.

    Editor & Publisher.   "Another Setback for Conservative Bloggers: The Great 'Kerry Photo' Flap."

    5 January 2007.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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