Biden and first lady Jill Biden were at the airport for a “dignified transfer” ceremony, a military ritual of receiving the bodies of fallen U.S. service members who died in foreign combat.
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During the event, he placed his right hand to his chest as the flag-draped coffins were carried off the Air Force C-17 Globemaster plane.
But at one brief moment, Biden appeared to quickly glance down at his watch before putting his arms behind his back, prompting backlash from critics.
“Looks like he was being inconvenienced by having to show some respect for these American Heros [sic],” Samuel Williams, a disabled US Army veteran, wrote on Twitter.
“It’s true. Joe Biden checked his watch during the dignified transfer of the servicemembers killing in Afghanistan at the airport,” columnist Nicholas Fondacaro wrote.
“You can see him jerk his left hand to pull the watch out from under his sleeve, then look down at it,” he added.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee wrote: “Many of us remember Pres Bush 41 checking his watch during a debate and how awful it looked (even though we all felt same way about that debate.) But this is shocking and will be remembered.”
Foreign policy analyst Nile Gardiner, director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at The Heritage Foundation, said that “there is nothing more important than paying your respects to America’s fallen war heroes, Mr. President.”
Former White House doctor Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas) said in a tweet:
“Apparently our Commander-in-Chief has better things to do than honor the 13 service members who died on his watch?
“I’m DISGUSTED! God bless these heroes and their loved ones. They deserved better,” he added.
The 13 troops who were killed in Kabul had been assisting with the evacuation of Americans and Afghans after the swift fall of the country’s government.
Among the casualties were 11 Marines, one Navy corpsman and one Army soldier.
The victims ranged in age from 20 to 31, including 23-year-old Marine Sgt. Nicole Gee, who was captured last week in a photo cooing over an Afghan infant.
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