In a May post on his website, Fox News personality Sean Hannity falsely claimed that in 1991 now-GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump sent his private jet to retrieve 200 “stranded” Gulf War veterans from Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
According to the erroneous report — which the Trump campaign said they confirmed to be true — “Mr. Trump did indeed send his plane to make two trips from North Carolina to Miami, Florida to transport over 200 Gulf War Marines back home.”
The Hannity story mostly relied on the recollections of a single source, of Cpl. Ryan Stickney, who was a squad leader in a Marine Corps Reserve antitank (TOW) company that was called up for duty for the 1990-91 conflict that took place after Iraq invaded Kuwait. Cpl. Stickney told his story at a Trump rally in June.
Snopes.com and Washington Post looked deeper into the anecdote and found that the plane — though it bore Trump’s name, as does his private jet — was actually one of a Trump Shuttle fleet of planes from his short-lived airline and not his personal plane as the Trump campaign “confirmed.”
Trump Shuttle was an airline that Trump briefly owned before it was essentially seized by the banks because he failed to make payments on his loans.
But this is where Sean Hannity’s and the Trump campaign’s story starts to break down. Trump’s personal plane only holds 24 passengers, not anywhere near the space required for 200 Marines. Also the Boeing 727s, which do have the appropriate seating capacity, flown by Trump Airlines had a white fuselage while Trump’s personal plane from 1991 was blue and had different markings.
And finally, Donald Trump made a terrible deal when he purchased Eastern Air Shuttle and re-branded it as Trump Shuttle. Timing is everything in business, and unfortunately for Trump he entered the airline game at the wrong time. So in September 1990, Trump defaulted on the loan and the banks took over Trump Shuttle. The banks searched far and wide for a buyer before they reached a long-term agreement with US Air to manage the airline until 1996, and then to buy it.” So by April 1991, Donald Trump no longer even controlled the planes that flew with his name on them.
Even veterans who were there and in the know rebuked the Trump campaign’s claim.
Lt. Gen. Vernon J. Kondra, now retired, was in charge of all military airlift operations. He said that relying on commercial carriers freed up the military cargo aircraft for equipment transport. But Kondra said the notion that Trump personally arranged to help the stranded soldiers made little sense. “I certainly was not aware of that. It does not sound reasonable that it would happen like that. It would not fit in with how we did business,” he told The Washington Post. “I don’t even know of how he would have known there was a need.”
During this election cycle, Hannity has: peddled a moot voter fraud theory to support Trump’s claim that the election is rigged; launched an investigation into the Gold Star Khan parents, whose political agenda he said made them unfairly target Trump; and claimed “nothing” Trump’s “said is racist.”