President Donald Trump on Wednesday shared an altered photograph of himself placing a medal around the neck of the dog injured in the raid last weekend that led to the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State's leader.
The image, which bears a watermark for a social media account for the conservative news site The Daily Wire, appeared to be an altered version of a 2017 Associated Press photograph. In the original, Trump is seen awarding a Medal of Honor to James C. McCloughan, a retired Army medic who is credited with saving the lives of 10 men during the war in Vietnam.
Trump has spoken of the dog, whose name Newsweek reported is Conan, in glowing terms in the days since the raid, which culminated with al-Baghdadi detonating a suicide bomb, killing himself and several children and injuring the dog.
"Our 'K-9,' as they call it, I call it a dog," Trump said on Sunday. "A beautiful dog — a talented dog — was injured and brought back."
McCloughan was awarded the Medal of Honour, the highest honour for valour in combat, in July 2017. He is credited with saving the lives of company members during a battle on Nui Yon Hill in 1969 near the city of Tam Kỳ, Vietnam. He was struck by shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade and small-arms fire, but repeatedly ran onto the battlefield to rescue his comrades.
In a phone interview Wednesday, McCloughan, 73, who had not seen the image before a reporter sent it to him, said that he interpreted it as Trump recognising the dog's heroism. He certainly was not offended and laughed when he compared the two images.
After all, he said, Medal of Honour recipients accept on behalf of their entire teams, especially those that did not return from battle. And canines have long been part of war efforts.
"This recognises the dog is part of that team of brave people," he said.
McCloughan, who taught high school and coached youth sports after his military service, added that he had worked with a dog in Vietnam who helped detect enemy activity during missions.
"They are very courageous," he said of military canines.
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He was also concerned about the condition of the dog, after the president tweeted that the dog was injured when the terror leader detonated a suicide vest.
"Once a medic, always a medic," McCloughan said.
Trump on Wednesday also awarded the Medal of Honour to Matthew O. Williams, an Army master sergeant, who is credited with helping to save the lives of four critically wounded soldiers in 2008 in Afghanistan.
The image Trump shared on Wednesday was one of several altered photographs featuring the dog and posted in recent days on social media by The Daily Wire.
The Trump White House is fluent in and speaks often in the language of internet memes.
In April, Trump shared a spoof video of a video by Joe Biden. As Biden sits cross-legged on a sofa and speaks, what looks like a cardboard cutout of Biden pops up behind him, seeming to mock his remarks.
In August, he tweeted a fake image of a gleaming Trump Tower on Greenland, a country that he had reportedly talked about buying. He has also tweeted a doctored GIF of him hitting Hillary Clinton with a golf ball and another of him wrestling CNN to the ground.
Written by: Niraj Chokshi and Karen Zraick
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