Gold Star mother accuses Biden of seeking 'photo op' instead of comforting her over loss of son in Afghanistan withdrawal

August 22, 2023
Ben Marquis

President Joe Biden and others in his administration have been sharply criticized for their abhorrent mishandling of the chaotic 2021 military withdrawal from Afghanistan, which included an arguably preventable suicide bombing just outside the Kabul airport that claimed the lives of 13 U.S. service members and nearly 200 Afghans seeking evacuation.

Now a Gold Star mother of one of the U.S. Marines that died in that bombing has accused Biden of coldly offering her a photo opportunity with him instead of comfort for her loss during a 2022 Memorial Day meeting at the White House, according to the Daily Wire.

Nor is that grieving mother alone in calling out the alleged callousness of the president, as other Gold Star parents have shared similarly critical accounts in recent weeks of their prior meetings with Biden and other administration officials with regard to the deaths of their loved ones in that August 2021 bombing attack.

Biden's desire for a "photo op"

The Daily Mail reported exclusively that Gold Star mother Paula Knauss Selph, whose son was Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Christian Knauss, said of the loss of her son, "There's been a lot of grief, a lot of grief," and noted, "There's nothing like watching your child die in front of you, in front of the world."

She shared her recollection of a meeting with President Biden at the White House with other Gold Star families during the 2022 Memorial Day weekend, and said that the president told her, "I can understand if you're angry."

"I stood face-to-face with him, eyeball-to-eyeball. I began to weep," Selph continued as she recalled telling Biden, "It should have never happened this way."

In response, Biden "stood there stoically" and did not apologize, but rather replied, "Would you like to get a photo with me?" She recalled saying that she would only pose for a photo with Biden if it was in front of her son's grave at Arlington National Cemetery but noted that Biden declined and blamed the Secret Service for not allowing him to do such a thing.

"It's a moral disgrace for a president not to have mercy on the people that he serves. It is a moral disgrace," Selph told the outlet as she lambasted the president for seeking to turn a "sad occasion" into a "photo op," and added, "He had the chance to make a difference for my child. On not making decisions and indecisions that cost him his life. And I do hold him accountable."

Parents claim they were lied to by Biden, other officials

Speaking of photo ops, Fox News reported recently that Gold Star father Steve Nikoui, who lost his son Marine Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui in the Kabul bombing, told the network that it was President Biden's pursuit of a "photo op" in ending the 20-year war in Afghanistan that resulted in the unnecessary death of his son.

"The singularity that I got from this whole thing was that … it's part of the problem with what's wrong with society today … anything at the cost of an optics. And that's what this was," Nikoui said. "This was the optics of Joe Biden to get his … September 11th … I've terminated this 20-year war, etc., etc. ... These 13 kids, they were killed for that photo-op. That was it."

Nikoui and several other Gold Star parents recently testified at a forum hosted by Rep. Darrel Issa (R-CA) about their experiences after losing their loved ones in the Afghanistan withdrawal, and a common theme that emerged was that they had all been lied to by Biden and others about the circumstances of their loved ones' deaths to some extent.

"The lies, given incomplete reports, incorrect reports, total disrespect," recalled Kelly Barnett, the mother of Marine Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover, who died in the Kabul blast. "I was told to my face he died on impact. That's not true. The only reason that I know this is because witnesses told me the truth. I was lied to and basically told to shut up, that that's the way it was."

Comparing deaths in a suicide bombing to his son's death from cancer

The New York Post reported that Cheryl Rex, the Gold Star mother of bombing victim Marine Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola, recalled that President Biden had sought to make their meeting about the death of his own son, Beau Biden, and implied that he had died during his deployment to Iraq -- a lie that Biden has repeatedly told -- despite the fact that he died from brain cancer some six years after he had returned from his service.

"His words to me were, 'My wife, Jill, and I know how you feel. We lost our son as well and brought him home in a flag-draped coffin.' My heart started beating faster and I started shaking, knowing that their son died from cancer and they were able to be by his side," she said during the hearing of Biden's "heartless" comments to her, and added, "After this encounter, I have never had any personal correspondence, nor has my son been honored or his name spoken by this commander-in-chief or his administration on what I feel is because of their failures and poor planning to exit our troops from Afghanistan."

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