Fox News military analyst Col. David Hunt falsely claimed that "the Army brass" did not learn that former pro football player and Army Ranger Pat Tillman had been killed by friendly fire until "about a month" after his death. In fact, an Army investigation states that "top Army officials" knew Tillman's cause of death about a week after it happened, according to The Washington Post. Tillman's parents have criticized the Army for failing to tell them and the public the truth about Tillman's death.
Tillman, a former player for the Arizona Cardinals who joined the Army following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, died on April 22, 2004, after his fellow Army Rangers accidentally shot him near the Pakistani border. Hunt's claim about when "Army brass" learned the truth about Tillman's death contradicts Brig. Gen. Gary M. Jones' investigation, requested by Tillman's parents and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). According to the Post's summary of the Army report, which is not available to the public: "Top commanders within the U.S. Central Command, including [Gen. John P.] Abizaid [the head of U.S. Central Command], were notified by April 29 -- four days before Tillman's memorial service in San Jose, where he was given a posthumous Silver Star Award."
Despite this notification, an April 30, 2004, Army press release announcing that Tillman would be posthumously awarded the Silver Star strongly suggested that Tillman was killed by enemy fire. It stated that Tillman "was killed April 22 when his unit came under fire during combat operations." It also stated that Tillman "was awarded the medal for his selfless actions after his Ranger element was ambushed by anti-coalition insurgents" and that "Tillman was shot and killed while focusing his efforts on the elimination of the enemy forces and the protection of his team members."
That same day, Abizaid held a briefing in which he described a visit with a member of Tillman's unit who was also wounded in the incident. "He was still nursing a large number of wounds that he sustained in that firefight where Pat Tillman lost his life," Abizaid said.
Tillman was awarded the Silver Star at a public memorial service on May 3. The Jones investigation concluded that Tillman's Silver Star was justified, regardless of how he was killed, because he "was given the award based on what he intended to do," according to the Post.
From the May 23 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
HUNT: They [Tillman's unit] were in Iraq for a year. The unit comes back and redeploys, like the rest of the Army, to Afghanistan. He went. There was a gully situation in which Pat Tillman was setting up to support a Ranger operation. The guys on that one side of the hill thought it was the enemy -- shot and killed, unfortunately, Pat. The Ranger regiment itself started to cover this up. They made the false report to the Department of the Army, which is how this chain started. Then, the Silver Star issue starts, in which the Army decided we're going to give this guy a Silver Star. And they went as far as when they did the burial of Ranger Tillman, went public and said what a great guy he was -- and he is -- but didn't tell the family until after the funeral what really happened.
BILL O'REILLY (host): All right, so let me get this straight. The Ranger unit itself engineered the cover-up. Is that what you're saying?
HUNT: Absolutely right.
O'REILLY: When did the Army brass learn the truth?
HUNT: About a month or so afterwards. The Rangers are a storied unit. This is --
O'REILLY: OK, wait, wait, wait, but let's walk through this.
HUNT: Yes, OK.
O'REILLY: So about a month or two after it happened, the Army learned the truth.
HUNT: About a month.
O'REILLY: But they didn't immediately tell the family, did they?
HUNT: No, the problem was that because of the sensitivity of this, and they made a mistake. They should have immediately informed the Tillmans there was a problem, which they did after the funeral. They said there may be a problem. The issue, though, is the issuing of the Silver Star, which they did. And Tillman was a great guy. He was known as a good Ranger.
O'REILLY: Did they know he was killed by friendly fire before they gave him the Silver Star?
HUNT: No. No, they did not, but the problem was --
O'REILLY: All right, so he got the Silver Star under the report that he was heroic in battle. That wasn't a fraud.
HUNT: Yes. No, the problem was that it happened very, very fast. Unusually fast for anybody.