Joe Biden has again been criticised for saying that his late son Beau Biden “lost his life in Iraq” – a reference to the president’s long-held belief that toxic burn pits led to the younger Biden passing away from brain cancer at the age of 46.
The president made his latest remarks to US troops stationed in Japan during his trip to the country, after making similar remarks at least twice last year.
“My son was a major in the US Army. We lost him in Iraq,” said Mr Biden during an informal visit with troops at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni last Thursday in a video obtained by The New York Post.
Right-wing media outlets have attempted to use Mr Biden’s comments on Beau’s death as a sign that the 80-year-old Democrat has memory issues, ahead of the 2024 presidential election.
Mr Biden’s son died of brain cancer in 2015 at the Walter Reed military hospital in Bethesda, Maryland.
Last October, Mr Biden made similar comments while designating Camp Hale in Colorado as a national monument.
The area, covering 436 square miles, was the training site of the 10th Mountain Division during the Second World War.
Mr Biden spoke of the bravery of the division as they fought in Italy, before stating that he lost his son in Iraq.
“Just imagine, I mean it sincerely, I say this as a father of a man who won the Bronze Star, the conspicuous service medal, and lost his life in Iraq. Imagine the courage, the daring, and the genuine sacrifice they all made,” the president said.
A clip of the moment shared by the conservative Washington Examiner on Twitter has been viewed more than a million times.
Mr Biden’s son had served in Iraq between 2008 and 2009 as a member of the Delaware Army National Guard. He was the Delaware Attorney General between 2007 and 2015.
Just months after leaving the post, he passed away at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland on 30 May 2015.
After his passing, he was given the Delaware Conspicuous Service Cross for “heroism, meritorious service and outstanding achievement”.
“Beau Biden died of brain cancer in 2015, more than five years after he returned from a year serving in Iraq. Joe Biden has attributed the cancer to Beau Biden’s proximity to burn pits in Iraq, though sometimes conceded he isn’t sure,” tweeted CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale.
In 2016, then the vice president, Mr Biden said his son’s cancer could have been caused by the toxic burn pits he was exposed to during his service in the Middle East.
The New York Times reported that Mr Biden said he was “stunned” when he read a chapter concerning the death of his son in the book The Burn Pits: The Poisoning of America’s Soldiers by Joseph Hickman.
“Guys, I’m going to be the biggest pain in your neck as long as I live, until we figure out about these burn pits,” he said in a conference room in the congressional complex.
Burn pits were used to get rid of waste, such as plastics, rubber, and batteries, in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The smoke from the pits could be toxic, Newsweek noted.
The Department of Defence has stated that almost 3.5 million service members could have been exposed to toxins at harmful levels because of the practice.
“I’ve always believed that we have a sacred obligation to equip those we send to war, and care for those and their families when they come home,” Mr Biden said during his State of the Union speech earlier this year.
“And they come home, many of the world’s fittest and best-trained warriors in the world, never the same. Headaches. Numbness. Dizziness. A cancer that would put them in a flag-draped coffin.”
While Mr Biden said he couldn’t be entirely sure that his son’s cancer was caused by the burn pits, he said his administration would be “finding out everything we can”.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) stated on its website that it “understands that many Veterans are especially concerned about exposure to the smoke and fumes generated by open burn pits”.
“In Iraq, Afghanistan, and other areas of the Southwest Asia theater of military operations, open-air combustion of trash and other waste in burn pits was a common practice. The Department of Defense has now closed out most burn pits and is planning to close the remainder,” the agency said.
“Researchers, including experts at VA, are actively studying airborne hazards like burn pits and other military environmental exposures. Ongoing research will help us better understand potential long-term health effects and provide you with better care and services.”