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Posted at 9:54 AM ET, 09/30/2008

The Great Bracelet Debate

By Michael Dobbs

FOX HOST STEVE DOOCY"Now we are hearing more about the story behind that particular bracelet, and apparently the mother, Tracy Jopek, asked your campaign that he [Barack Obama] not wear it any more at public appearances."
OBAMA SPOKESMAN ROBERT GIBBS: "That's not true...Let's get the facts straight before we start making stuff up on the news."
FOX CO-HOST BRIAN KILMEADE: "Don't say we're making stuff up!... Unbelievable."

Things got a little testy on Fox and Friends on Monday when Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs suggested that the host might be "making stuff up" about the fallen veteran's bracelet that his boss displayed during the first presidential debate with John McCain. Conservative talk show hosts have been making a lot of this story, so what is the truth? Did the soldier's mother ask the Democratic presidential candidate not to wear her son's bracelet?

The Facts

Sergeant Ryan Jopek, of the Wisconsin National Guard, was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in August 2006. Last February, his mother, Tracy Jopek, presented Obama with her son's memorial bracelet at a political rally in Green Bay. According to newspaper reports at the time, Jopek was opposed to the war in Iraq and "didn't want any more soldiers to die in vain."

A few days later, after Obama mentioned the bracelet on the campaign trail, Jopek apparently had a change of heart. She told the Associated Press this week that she realized that her gesture could be interpreted as a protest against the war, a statement that made her uncomfortable because there were other military families who supported the conflict. She e-mailed the Obama campaign to request that he not mention the bracelet in public.

Around this time, Jopek's former husband, Brian, gave a slightly different story in an interview with Wisconsin Public Radio. According to Brian Jopek, his ex-wife "had misgivings" about Obama wearing the bracelet on the campaign trail. He said that Tracy had told him "in an email that she had asked, actually asked Mr. Obama to not wear the bracelet any more at any of his public appearances."

In her Associated Press interview, Tracy Jopek described Brian's statement as a "mischaracterization" of her position. She also said that she was satisfied with the way that Obama had brought up the subject during the presidential debate after McCain talked about the bracelet that he was wearing in honor of another soldier. As McCain told the story, the mother of the New Hampshire soldier asked him to make sure that the Iraq mission succeeded, so his death would not be in vain.

"I think it was an appropriate response," said Tracy Jopek, referring to Obama. "He was just saying there's another side to the story, there's two different viewpoints."

The Pinocchio Test

This is one of those disputes that are impossible to adjudicate. There seems to have been some miscommunication between Tracy and Brian Jopek. Understandably, Tracy Jopek is torn between her wish to honor the memory of her dead son, and her fear of being dragged into a partisan political debate. The Fox commentators did not exactly "make things up" since they were relying on an interview with Brian Jopek. But the story is more complicated than that.

By Michael Dobbs  | September 30, 2008; 9:54 AM ET
Categories:  Iraq, MSM Watch  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: The Art of Meaningless Spin
Next: Obama's 'Trillion Dollar' Spending Plan


I wish Steve Doucey would just add the "h" to his last name already. He is a gold-plated award winning one. All the problems going on and this is what this cheesehead and his botoxed co-host have to talk about?

Posted by: poor repukes | September 30, 2008 11:14 AM | Report abuse

So, THe mother did ask them to not wear it. Fox was correct. The after the fact comment by the mother that it was an appropriate use to point out ther is a difference of opinion doesn't alter "the fact".

Posted by: sumlukelark | September 30, 2008 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Of course, the Fox commentators did not "make things up" since they were relying on an interview with Brian Jopek, but why award ANY Pinocchios to the OBAMA SPOKESMAN ROBERT GIBBS for lying: "That's not true...Let's get the facts straight before we start making stuff up on the news."


Posted by: JakeD | September 30, 2008 11:29 AM | Report abuse

With everything else going on in the world today, is that all Fox News has to talk about? If the mother didn't want Obama to have the bracelet she wouldn't have given it to him in the first place. The fact that she gave it to him is a political statement in itself. She could have given it to his pastor, his grandmother or anyone else but she chose to give it to a presidential candidate? PLEASE, SPARE ME. Much-a-do-about-nothing!

Posted by: Zwed | September 30, 2008 11:47 AM | Report abuse

She said not to "mention", instead of "wear" the bracelet in public. So Gibbs was absolutely right to say that "it's not true". Fox was pushing a bogus statement.

Posted by: C | September 30, 2008 11:51 AM | Report abuse

It is correct to give no pinochios to Fox News.

But the Obama spokesman should have 4 pinochios here. Fox News came no where close to making this up.

Posted by: jfg | September 30, 2008 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Why is it that everyone has to pick at every little thing concerning Barack? Obviously he would NOT have worn the braclet if he knew it would cause such controversy and if the parents didn't want him to. I didn't hear anyone talk about McPalin NOT wearing the American flag pin on his lapel. If Barack had not worn his pin, the Republicans would have had a field day with that.

Posted by: cjicfalls | September 30, 2008 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Did you guys MISS the AP story yesterday that said the mother was 'ecstatic' about Obama mentioning her son during the debate?

This is unfortunately a story about a beef between the mother (a Democrat) and her ex-husband (a Republican).

Its really hard for me to consider the accuracy of your fact-checking, when you are missing the obvious and the AP confirmation. The readers should NOT have to fact check you. In this case I give your comments a 'three Pinocchio' rating.

Posted by: Peg | September 30, 2008 12:13 PM | Report abuse

This type of line stripping is so typical of Fox News. They obviously have no other Democratic material to work with so instead of addressing they real issues in this campaign.

Nice job again Fox... NOT!

Posted by: prophetic libation | September 30, 2008 12:27 PM | Report abuse

It was a terrific moment in the debate. You know Obama had the remark in his pocket waiting for Mccain to tell that tired old story to spring it on him. It really punched a hole in Mccain's attempt at phony dramatics. Interesting also is that the soldiers on active duty support Obama 6 to 1. No one in their right mind there thinks there is anything to be won in Iraq worth one American life and I seriously doubt Mccains stories that always end with the punch lines "LET US WIN" ever happened except in Mccains mind, it's just BS, It is more like "Let us go home enough have died for nothing".

Posted by: Anonymous | September 30, 2008 12:37 PM | Report abuse

No, the mother never asked Obama not to wear the bracelet, she asked him not to mention it on the campaign trail because she didn't want to politicize her son's death. The father said the mother asked Obama not to wear the bracelet, but that was not true by the mother's own account. Obama mentioned the bracelet only because McCain sought to politicize the NH soldier's death and thus the mother had no problem with her son being held up as a counter example of an honorable soldier who disagreed with the war, he was still willing to fight and die in.

As an Obama supporter, I actually do believe he shouldn't have mentioned it, especially since there are thousands of other soldiers families who support Obama and would have had no problem with Obama mentioning their child. But I do not think Obama was exploiting the mother's child's death, as McCain so happily does everywhere he goes.

Posted by: RCD | September 30, 2008 12:50 PM | Report abuse

So the Fact Checker has been reduced to "she said-he said" rehashes of a non-story regarding men's accessories. And the verdict: too complicated.

Oh well, You had a good run.

Posted by: John | September 30, 2008 12:54 PM | Report abuse

This is so like Fox news. During this financial crisis this is the story that is hot off their press? I heard it on Sean Hannity last night and he surely had had the means and the time to have checked it out by then, but he chose only to report the part of the conversation with Brian Jopek and didn't bother with the whole truth as we now know it. That is so like him and his right wing biased news station. They base their ratings on all the innuendo they can scrape off the floor or make up.

Posted by: Maggie M. | September 30, 2008 1:05 PM | Report abuse

I think what it all boils down to is what the bracelets stood for - whether someone outside of the cadidates wanted them to wear it or not. For Obama - a fallen soldier that did not want any more soldiers to die in vain.
For McCain - a fallen soldier that wanted the War in Iraq to succeed so that his death would not be in vain.
Two different sides, no need to complicate it any more than that.

Posted by: Katie | September 30, 2008 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Sumlukelark: please read exactly what the story said:
"She e-mailed the Obama campaign to request that he not mention the bracelet in public".

The evidence she asked him not to wear it is hearsay.

Have some respect for the truth.

The financial underpinnings of the economy are collapsing, we're involved in two wars, 46 million Americans without health insurance, we have a $460 billion deficit, and Fox News thinks this is newsworthy. I'm surprised the Obama campaign even responded to these idiots.

Posted by: DDS | September 30, 2008 2:50 PM | Report abuse

I must say that I have been wondering about that bracelet that Obama wears for months. There was a news photographer at the Indianapolis Star who took a close-up of it during the editorial board conference there, but he kind of shrugged off some reader questions about the bracelet, so I didn't know what it was.

Now that we know, I want to thank Mrs. Jopcek so much for sharing this aspect of her private life and tragic loss with us and for giving Senator Obama the honor of wearing the bracelet. It means a lot to all of us that she did this.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 30, 2008 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Fox host Steve Docy and Co-Host Brian Kilmeade are nothing but pathetic liars and they need to stick to the facts before making crazy headlines. I am a Palin supporter and I thought both McCain and Obama wore bracelets from our brave soldiers. Fox news cut out the double standard BS and let's talk about the important issues, such as the financial crisis the American people are facing. The American people have moved on from the last debate and we are looking forward to Thursday debate. This is why I am switching to CNN news. There is just no accountability for the lies or untrue statement FOX NETWORK host produces

Posted by: Anonymous | September 30, 2008 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Anyone who read the AP story would know the FOX news statement was false.

She never asked Obama not to wear the bracelet, period.

If, in lieu of the facts, you continue to argue what is false then you are incorrigible.

The person who supposedly said this, denied it, case closed. The best you can do is argue that the FOX people did not lie because they genuinely believed the accuracy of third party information which later turned out to be false.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 30, 2008 4:03 PM | Report abuse

There are so many points to make concerning the debates, and one of them is that McPalin came out and announced that Sen. Kennedy was back in the hospital and his thoughts were with him when actually if McPalin would have checked on that little tid bit, Kennedy was already OUT of the hospital and at home watching the debates. I don't know what he thought he would gain from mentioning Kennedy's name, but I'm sure he had something in mind.
Why does he continue to lie about EVERYTHING when the truth is right there in front of him.
He didn't even say the 2 words that might have helped him that night..middle class.

Posted by: cjicfalls | September 30, 2008 4:09 PM | Report abuse

What you anti Fox bloggers are really saying is 98% of the MSM is PRO Obama and we want it to be 100% so we can continue to hide the background of Barack Hussien Obama.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 30, 2008 4:19 PM | Report abuse

MORE B S BIAS FROM THE MSM and WAPO! And look at the article beside this one. It is from August!
Get a real job. You are not fit to
"inform the Public." That takes REAL FACT CHECKER not your biased one!
No Obama! He is not qualified period!
America, do not turn this Country over to this empty suit. This man will give this whole country away.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 30, 2008 4:23 PM | Report abuse

She said 1) She asked him not to mention it again, she never said she asked him not to wear it. 2) Later, she was happy he did mention it to counter McCain's use of a braclet. So, Fox got it wrong, and pushed a story based only on hearsay from the woman's ex. Typical bad journalism from Fox. Fox deserves the Pinocchios.

Posted by: bgjd1979 | September 30, 2008 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Instead of flailing madly, smearing the media or the bloggers here for presenting the facts against the FOX comment, why don't you try mentioning some of the facts that are relevant to the discussion at hand.

When the truth hurts, you find shelter in changing the subject and comfort in lies.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 30, 2008 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Fox news is a joke. Who watches that stuff.
When watching CNN I see both parties represented on a regular basis. Rollins and Sanchez are the 2 names that pop up off the top of my head from the Republican side and they are given ample time to state their points without being cut off.
I can only stomach about 2 minutes of Sean Hannity. The guys a piece of work and NEVER admits to being incorrect, it's always black or white and he needs to go on a diet.

Posted by: Buzz | September 30, 2008 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Fox News deserved one Pinnochio for claiming that the mother asked him to stop wearing the bracelet, since her statement in support of Obama's comments had already come out before they were asking Gibbs about it.

The also deserve 4 "Horses' Rear Ends" for bringing up the topic in the first place and, as Republicans (Fox being the all Republican, all the time channel) frequently do, claiming that they are the only people who support soldiers and anyone else claiming to do so is "political."

Posted by: Chuck | September 30, 2008 4:51 PM | Report abuse

I laugh at anyone criticizing McCain not wearing a pin. I guess his arms being broken multiple times by torture in a POW camp does not qualify him as patriotic?

Posted by: Kurt C. | September 30, 2008 4:56 PM | Report abuse

In an interview after the debate the mother explicitly said that she was "ecstatic" that Obama had mentioned her son and the bracelet. She was pleased that Obama had pointed out that there are differing viewpoints on the Iraq was.

McCain crassly assumes that he owns the lives of all those who died valiantly in this insane war to use for his own selfish political purposes. Obama was simply pointing out that McCain's exploitative use of the bracelet is unwarranted by the fact that so many veterans and their families oppose the war.

Fox was wrong. As usual. End of story.

Posted by: deedee | September 30, 2008 5:26 PM | Report abuse

Kurt wrote "I laugh at anyone criticizing McCain not wearing a pin. I guess his arms being broken multiple times by torture in a POW camp does not qualify him as patriotic?"

I don't know...maybe we should ask these guys. You think?

Posted by: Jesus | September 30, 2008 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Fox News.....get a life. You NOW know that she is QUITE comfortable about the matter, so let's not belabor the point. Move on!

Posted by: Jesus | September 30, 2008 5:52 PM | Report abuse defines hearsay as "unverified, unofficial information gained or acquired from another and not part of one's direct knowledge". Since Fox received its information from Mrs. Jopek's ex-husband and not Mrs. Jopek herself, this easily meets the hearsay definition.

This is much ado about nothing.

Story receives zero pinocchios and Fox receives the maximum in its attempt to mislead the viewers.

Posted by: The Franchise | September 30, 2008 5:52 PM | Report abuse

I too have often wondered about the bracelet Obama always wears.
I was very touched by the whole story and truly wish this occupancy in Iraq would end soon. Too many young soldiers dead or maimed. Too many innocent Iraq citizens dead or maimed. Too many families grieving. Enough.

99% of the 'journalists' (I use the word loosly) on Fox are downright vicious. The are constantly encouraging hate and contempt towards the Obama campaign and towards anyone who doesn't agree with their entirely twisted point of view. Luckily I have access to all TV channels but was warned about Fox, a channel I had never tuned in to until lately. I honestly found it difficult to believe that they were as bad as other viewers have mentioned, so I decided to watch and listen for a full day. I was absolutely horrified. And to think there are many many people that watch only Fox network and believe the garbage they spew out to the airwaves is the truth and the whole truth.
No wonder racism and bias just won't go away; it's alive and well on Fox.
Thank heaven for my remote.

Posted by: flabbergasted1 | September 30, 2008 5:59 PM | Report abuse


Maybe the Fox News reporters weren't "making stuff up", but at minimum they were being incompetent and at most immoral. If they choose to present statements by a secondary source(Brian) that are disputed by the primary(Tracy), they are distorting the truth. If they knew of Tracy's statements to the contrary they were being unethical in exactly the way that Fox News is notorious for being unethical. If they did it by accident, then they were just being bad journalists, in the same way that Fox News is notorious for bad journalism.

A standard journalistic practice is to go to the primary for comment, rather than relying upon hearsay from someone who was not a witness to the event.

Either way Fox messed up and it deserves to be mentioned.

Posted by: Fact Wrecker | September 30, 2008 7:07 PM | Report abuse

I don't think that Fox News is justified in making stuff up, even if there is a perceived media bias towards Obama.

Plus reporters are citizens and voters. If Obama has persuaded them to support him in the election that is good politics. Its too bad that McCain wasn't more persuasive, despite all his efforts.

Posted by: Andrew in IN | September 30, 2008 7:14 PM | Report abuse

So, we're facing a global economic crisis and FOX has moved on from lipstick to bracelets? The Founding Fathers would be so incredibly proud...

Posted by: ChotR | September 30, 2008 7:19 PM | Report abuse

If Fox says it, it's a lie.

Posted by: Nayar | September 30, 2008 7:26 PM | Report abuse

to ChotR:

And that's exactly the point: instead of intelligent discussion abt the issues, FOX - and republicans in general, want to talk abt anything but...Sean Hannity isn't intelligent enough to talk issues....

Posted by: Anonymous | September 30, 2008 7:27 PM | Report abuse

What do you expect from Doocy. He should be in the circus wearing face paint. What a clown!

Posted by: sevencard | October 1, 2008 12:12 AM | Report abuse

It is patently unfair for Gwen Ifill to moderate the VP debate, since she has a great deal to gain from an Obama victory. Her book, titled “The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama,” is due to be released on January 20th, 2009, on Presidential Inauguration Day. She will have a blockbuster in all the bookstores if Obama wins. Nobody will buy her book if Obama loses.

From editorial review: “In THE BREAKTHROUGH, veteran journalist Gwen Ifill surveys the American political landscape, shedding new light on the impact of Barack Obama’s stunning presidential campaign and introducing the emerging young African American politicians forging a bold new path to political power. ”

It is time for Gwen Ifill to recuse herself from the debate, because she has a dog in this fight. We must have an impartial moderator, one who has nothing to lose or to gain. Ifill is rooting for Obama, and banking on an Obama victory.

Posted by: thecandypoem | October 1, 2008 12:38 AM | Report abuse

what an irritating interviewer. he was lying and very petty. Fox is obviously a stupid news channel

Posted by: bbgood | October 1, 2008 3:43 AM | Report abuse

Am I the only one or does anyone else notice the anger and hostility expressed by Brian Kilmede. If there were an honest intent to "get to the truth" of a a series of events leading up to a current outcome (i.e. Obama countering McCain that he ,too, has a bracelet but was given it for different reasons) then when the answer is discovered
the matter should be put at rest and the guest thanked politely for his contribution to clearing things up. Instead there is a short fuse and a near temper tantrum. This is "Fox and Friends"? Give me a break. It has to be one of the worst shows on TV.

Posted by: paducah46 | October 1, 2008 9:20 AM | Report abuse

McShame should tell the truth about his
mult.broken arms he broke his arms when he
bail out,and his captors refused to give
him medical attention until he started
to sing! after that the NVA,understood
how he loved cigarettes,so they would give him a pack for any revelant information
his fellow pow's call him songbird!
the marlboro man! check that fact checker

Posted by: sarge | October 1, 2008 9:52 AM | Report abuse

McCain claims to have cosponsored legislation to regulate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac but the Democrat minority in the Senate in 2006 blocked him.

This is another McCain campaign LIE.

John McCain sponsored this bill TEN MONTHS after it died in committee and more a year and a half after it was first submitted. He did NOTHING to revive the bill and is using this as an excuse for his efforts at regulation. This man has no shame.

Check out and sarch for the bill S.190 for the 109th congress. There are 3 cosponsors. Two of them were real and one was fake.

Sen Dole, Elizabeth [NC] - 1/26/2005
Sen Sununu, John E. [NH] - 1/26/2005
Sen McCain, John [AZ] - 5/25/2006

Posted by: Stop Lying, McCain! | October 1, 2008 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Democrats for John McCain and Sarah Palin in 2008

Posted by: Tracey | October 1, 2008 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Of course nobody questions why McCain, Palin, Giuliani, or Clinton may not wear a flag pin on a given day. What truthful person would question their patriotism? But when Obama, or Rev Wright, Ayers, or Bernadine Dohrn don't wear one........well? You get it, right?

Posted by: Larry | October 1, 2008 3:08 PM | Report abuse

It was a valid question (truth behind bracelets).
"She e-mailed the Obama campaign to request that he not mention the bracelet in public. "

Then he mentioned it. Then she cleared up confusion, saying he was right to counter McCain. No one wants to see the soldier's life trivialized for either camp. Furthermore, if you look up the "bracelet debate" or "bracelet wars", you will see that fox is in no way the only one covering this story, including cbs and abc. This is not specifically fox's insensitivity to the gravity of current dilemmas, this is people who have nothing better to do than nitpick details.

Posted by: joseph | October 2, 2008 3:26 PM | Report abuse

What's obvious is that FOX was trying to create an embarrassing moment for the Obama campaign by oversimplifying an innocent enough situation. Obama has nothing to be embarrassed about, nothing to be defensive about. Once the entire story is told, it's clear FOX, and some people here, are trying to seize on PART of the story that is not factual (the husband's version of her sentiments) and stir up something out of nothing. That's pathetic.

Posted by: Chuck | October 2, 2008 11:21 PM | Report abuse

wanna laugh really hard...

Didn't have any major issues with Palin before last night?? Her VP acceptance speech was very poised but in the debate last night she really seemed to lack a lot of qualities that a national candidate needs to encompass.

Here's a Republican blog that really questions Palin's position on the ticket and suggests that she's hurting McCain.

Also includes the Katie Couric video about the newspapers Palin reads.


Posted by: j.b.wargo | October 3, 2008 2:34 PM | Report abuse

So the real conclusion is that FOX isn't capable of understanding a complicated issue? That's how it looks whenever I watch.

Posted by: M.R. in L.A. | October 6, 2008 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Since when is "truth squad" a verb and "truth squading" a participle? Please, learn how to write in English. And give us all a major break...

Posted by: Denny Dixon | October 7, 2008 10:02 PM | Report abuse

To look at your postings, it would appear that only McCain misrepresented the truth, save for one erroneous comment about the internet made by Obama.

Are we to belive that Obama was absolutely correct in everything else he said in the debate?

Do the fact checkers need to be checked themselves?

Posted by: E Pauls | October 7, 2008 10:42 PM | Report abuse

McCain said that we left Afghanistan after driving the Russians out and the Taliban came back into Afghanistan, That is not true. The Taliban actually fought the Russians and drove them out with American help.

Posted by: MiddleRoad | October 7, 2008 10:48 PM | Report abuse

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