Pentagon protested false Fox News report about fallen Marine, emails show

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The U.S. Marine Corps went up to the highest levels of Fox News last month to challenge a story that falsely claimed a fallen Marine’s family had to cover the cost of transporting her remains, emails obtained by The Washington Post show.

Fox quietly amended the digital story and then removed it from its website following more complaints from the Marines. It has not corrected the erroneous report or explained its reasons for removing the article in the month since it was published. News organizations typically alert readers to major changes in a published article for the sake of transparency.

Late Saturday, after The Post and other news organizations reported on the Marines’ objections to the story, the network said it had apologized to the family of Marine Sgt. Nicole L. Gee for its erroneous article.

Sgt. Gee, 23, was one of 13 U.S. service members killed in a suicide bombing at the Kabul airport in the frantic final days of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021.

Fox also said it had addressed the story “internally,” but did not explain what steps it has taken.

The Marines’ email communications with Fox were first reported by, which obtained the emails last week under a Freedom of Information Act request.

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The July 25 story relied on an account from freshman Rep. Cory Mills (R-Fla.), who stated that Sgt. Gee’s family had shouldered “a heavy financial burden,” paying $60,000 to retrieve her body from Afghanistan.

The story’s reporter, Michael Lee, quoted Mills calling the family’s supposed expenditures an “egregious injustice.” Neither Pentagon officials nor Sgt. Gee’s family were quoted in the original story.

Marine Corps officials say the family did not face any financial burdens to have Sgt. Gee’s body shipped to Arlington National Cemetery. They disputed the story in emails to Fox executives — including Fox News President and Executive Editor Jay Wallace and Editor in Chief Porter Berry — shortly after the story was published.

“The allegations originally published turned out to be false, which I suspect Mr. Lee knew in the first place, and was the reason he did not seek comment from the Marine Corps,” wrote Marine Corps spokesman Maj. James Stenger in an email to the Fox executives.

Two days after his original comments to Fox, Mills walked back his claims in a statement in which he seemed to blame the Pentagon and the Gee family for being “in their time of grief, confused” about the costs associated with the transportation of Sgt. Gee’s remains. He said the Defense Department “was able to provide clarification” about the matter.

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Fox News and its reporter did not reply to The Post’s multiple requests for comment last week. (A Fox spokesperson responded on Sunday to confirm the apology.) Mills also did not reply. Stenger declined to comment.

After Stenger’s first email, Fox added a statement from the Marines to the story and changed its headline. The original headline read: “Family forced to pay to ship body of Marine killed after Pentagon policy change; ‘Egregious injustice.’” The new version said: “Family shouldered burden to transport body of Marine killed in Afghanistan, GOP Rep says.”

Stenger emailed executives again to say the new headline and story were still false. “Using the grief of a family member of a fallen Marine to score cheap clickbait points is disgusting,” he wrote.

Fox then removed the story from its website altogether, ignoring Stenger’s request for a correction or retraction or an apology to Sgt. Gee’s family. Stenger also requested an apology to Sgt. Gee’s family, but it did not come until after called attention to the email exchange last week, a month after Fox removed the story.

In 2017, Fox News removed a story that suggested a link between the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails and the murder of Seth Rich, a young contractor who had worked there — a conspiracy theory heavily promoted on-air by Fox personalities but later debunked by a special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

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The network replaced the Rich story a week after publication with a statement conceding that the story “was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require” and said it would investigate and “provide updates as warranted.”

District police have said Rich’s still-unsolved murder appeared to be a result of a botched robbery. In 2020, Fox settled a lawsuit filed by Rich’s parents on undisclosed terms. But it never published further explanation about the retracted story.

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