The gaffe came while McDonald was speaking with homeless veterans in Los Angeles. One in particular mentioned serving in the Special Forces. “Special forces? What years? I was in special forces!” McDonald replied.
In fact, McDonald served in the 82nd Airborne. Although he was an airborne jumpmaster and reported attended Ranger school, he never formally served in a special operations capacity.
McDonald issued an apology on Tuesday, saying: “I have no excuses. I was not in Special Forces.” He has explained the gaffe by saying that he “reacted spontaneously” while speaking with a veteran who he was trying to “connect with.”
McDonald’s error has drawn condemnations from lawmakers and veterans leaders. Michael Helm, national commander of the American Legion, said: “A lie is a lie. I can’t believe people do this.”
Republican lawmakers have indicated that they will not call for McDonald’s resignation. House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman Jeff Miller said:
“After a rough couple of weeks that also included inflated claims of accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs, I hope Sec. McDonald will redouble his efforts to ensure his statements -- and those of all VA officials -- are completely accurate. This is the only way the department can regain the trust of the veterans and taxpayers it is charged with serving.”