Former Trump White House press secretary Sean Spicer amplified a false claim exploding on conservative social media Monday evening, retweeting a video wrongly claiming members of the U.S. National Women's Soccer Team "turned their backs on 98-year old World War II veteran Pete DuPré" as he "played the National Anthem on his harmonica."
"Embarrassing and disrespectful," Spicer tweeted. "If you are embarrassed to be an American then don't play on the US team - there are plenty of people ready to take your place."
Far right wing media outlets also exploded with stories. The Daily Caller led the rabid attack with a headline that read: "U.S. Soccer Players Turn Away From National Anthem Played By WWII Veteran."
Breitbart, The Post Millennial, NewsMax, and Russian government website RT all published similar stories.
Fox News Tuesday morning jumped on board, but with a headline that read: "US Soccer denies women's team disrespected WWII veteran before send-off match."
The Daily Caller later updated their false story to read: "US Soccer Federation Says Players Weren't Protesting After Video Of National Anthem Line-Up Causes Controversy."
And unable to accept reality, Town Hall early Tuesday ran with this: "Stay Classy, Ladies: Did Some Members of the USWNT Turn Their Backs on a 98-Year-Old WWII Veteran?"
The answer is a resounding no – but if they had they absolutely would have been exercising their First Amendment rights to do so.
Video from ESPN shows several team members facing forward, and some turned facing away from Pete DuPré but they are facing the American flag, which protocol calls for. Some of those facing the flag clearly have their hands on their hearts, others bowed their heads in respect.
98-year-old World War II veteran Pete DuPré played the national anthem on a harmonica before the @USWNT's Olympic send-off match 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/wnrOnZJhkC
— ESPN (@espn) July 5, 2021
The U.S. Soccer communications team was forced to put out a statement correcting the right wing's false claims.
To be clear, no one turned their back on WWII Veteran Pete DuPré during tonight's anthem. Some USWNT players were simply looking at the flag on a pole in one end of the stadium. The players all love Pete, thanked him individually after the game and signed a ball for him.
— U.S. Soccer Comms (@ussoccer_comms) July 6, 2021
Here's video of them doing just that:
— U.S. Soccer WNT (@USWNT) July 6, 2021
On of the players also pushed back against the false reports:
We turned because we faced the flag 🇺🇸 https://t.co/1JJHUWGCLv
— Carli Lloyd (@CarliLloyd) July 6, 2021
No one, from Sean Spicer to any of the right wing media, has apologized to the players for baselessly attacking them. But they all maintain their "patriotism."