Not Real News

President Joe Biden meets with the White House COVID-19 Response Team on the latest developments related to the Omicron variant in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House Campus in Washington, Tuesday. On Friday, The Associated Press reported on stories circulating online incorrectly claiming Biden fired over 200 marines for refusing to take the COVID vaccine.

CLAIM: “Joe Biden fired over 200 marines for refusing to take the COVID vaccine.”

THE FACTS: As of Dec. 30, 206 Marines have been removed from the Marine Corps for refusing to comply with the Pentagon’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate — but the removals were made by U.S. Marine Corps leadership, not the president, according to a Marine Corps spokesperson. Disciplinary decisions for armed service members are handled by the respective military services, the Department of Defense confirmed to The Associated Press.

As COVID-19 vaccination deadlines for some armed service branches recently passed, social media users spread false claims about which authorities carried out the discipline for those who refused to get the vaccine. The deadline for active-duty Marines to be vaccinated was Nov. 28, and the deadline for reservists to comply was Dec. 28.

Shortly after the final deadline, Nick Adams, president of The Foundation for Liberty and American Greatness, a conservative civic education organization, tweeted to his more than 223,000 followers: “Joe Biden fired over 200 Marines for refusing to take the COVID vaccine.”

But the assertion is incorrect about who is responsible for disciplining troops. Cpt. Andrew R. Wood, a Marine Corps communication strategy officer, confirmed that Corps leadership removed the Marines. Adams’ Dec. 31 tweet was deleted as of early Jan. 6, hours after an inquiry from the AP. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The post echoes similar false claims that social media users shared in October, asserting that Biden had ordered dishonorable discharges for all troops who refused to be vaccinated. A Pentagon official told the AP in October that Biden had not issued any such order, and that the president does not have the authority to make those decisions.

The Biden administration did at one point oppose a proposal by the Pentagon to remove dishonorable discharges from the list of disciplinary options that could be used against service members who refuse COVID-19 vaccines. But the administration did not order that such punishments be carried out. In fact, last month the president signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act — the annual bill that sets the DOD’s budget — with a provision that bars dishonorable discharges for service members who refuse the vaccine, the AP reported. The provision specifies they receive at least a general discharge, a less serious option.

— Sophia Tulp