Did the commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. David H. Berger, reject Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin's announcement that COVID-19 vaccinations will soon be a requirement for all service members, saying, "There will be no mandatory vaccinations for my Marines"? No, that's not true: This is a fictional story from a satire website, realrawnews.com. A disclaimer can be found on the "About Us" page of the website. A spokesperson for the Communication Directorate at the Marine Corps Public Affairs Office confirmed, "This story is completely fake."
The story originated from an article (archived here) published by realrawnews.com on August 10, 2021, under the title "Marines Rebuke Def. Sec.: 'No Mandatory Vaccinations for My Marines.'" Under a photo of Berger, the article opens:
Marine Corps General David H. Berger on Monday rebuked Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's edict requiring all Armed Forces personnel to submit to Covid-19 vaccinations under threat of court martial or discharge, said a source in Gen. Berger's office who overheard a heated conversation between them.
Gen. Berger telephoned the defense secretary minutes after he said in a press conference that the Covid-19 vaccination is needed to maintain military readiness and that he would enforce the mandatary vaccination policy regardless of FDA approval status.
This is how the article appeared on August 12, 2021:
(Image source: Screenshot from realrawnews.com taken on Thu Aug 12 19:35:12 2021 UTC)
Lead Stories reached out by telephone on August 12, 2021, to the Marine Corps Public Affairs Office to ask about this. A spokesperson for the Communication Directorate confirmed:
This story is completely fake.
This Real Raw News website does not have any clear clues that it is a satire site. When a link to this article is shared on social media, it doesn't indicate this is not real. On the "About Us" page of the website there is a disclaimer:
Information on this website is for informational and educational and entertainment purposes. This website contains humor, parody, and satire. We have included this disclaimer for our protection, on the advice on legal counsel.
This is how a post appeared on Facebook shared by the page "Veterans for America First."
(Image source: Screenshot from Facebook taken on Thu Aug 12 19:50:35 2021 UTC)
The made-up story continued:
'There will be no mandatory vaccinations for my Marines,' Gen. Berger said.
In a transcript of the call reviewed by Real Raw News, Gen. Berger lambasted Austin and branded him a traitor.
The day before this false news story was published, Austin sent out a memorandum for all Defense employees on August 9, 2021. It said that he would seek the president's approval to make the COVID-19 vaccines mandatory no later than mid-September or when the FDA licenses the vaccines, whichever comes first. The memo concludes:
To defend this Nation, we need a healthy and ready force. I strongly encourage all DoD military and civilian personnel -- as well as contractor personnel -- to get vaccinated now and for military Service members to not wait for the mandate.
All FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines are safe and highly effective. They will protect you and your family. They will protect your unit, your ship, and your co-workers. And they will ensure we remain the most lethal and ready force in the world.
Lead Stories has written about false stories from Real Raw News in the past. Frequently the stories have themes of military arrests, tribunals and executions.