Anyone who has ever watched Fox News for an extended period knows the network has a weakness for Leathery Military Men. If you’ve served in the armed forces and your skin looks like a worn-out satchel, Fox News will put you on the air. Sometimes, the network’s lust for patriotic punditry is so powerful that its producers will put Leathery Military Men on the air without bothering to check and see whether they are actually Military Men.
The Washington Post reports bsaed on a Navy Times scoop that Fox News recently issued a correction 11 days after airing a segment with a professed former Navy SEAL and Vietnam veteran who turned out to be neither of those things.* On Oct. 8, the network featured John Garofalo, a very leathery man who was billed as a “decorated war hero” who “hopes to honor Trump with [a] glass presidential seal.” Real Navy SEALs generally do not like it when fake Navy SEALs use bogus credentials to peddle glass presidential seals, and some of those real SEALs soon uncovered Garofalo’s deception. Fox News nevertheless took its time correcting the record, eventually noting that “all of Garofalo’s claims turned out to be untrue.” But the man is genuinely leathery!
This is not the first time Fox News has been snookered by a fake Leathery Military Man. In 2015, a grand jury indicted frequent Fox guest Wayne Simmons on fraud charges stemming from allegations that he’d had falsely claimed to have spent 27 years in the CIA, and had leveraged his lies into contracting gigs and media appearances. The New York Times Magazine observed that Simmons’ physical appearance—that is, his leatheriness—“amplified his [on-air] message of American supremacy through force.” Simmons delivered that message for more than a decade, with leathery style, on many different Fox News programs.
Simmons’ real résumé apparently involved stints in the limousine, carpet, and “adult-entertainment hot-tub complex” industries, as well as several arrests, including a 2007 incident in which, per Rolling Stone, he attacked a taxi driver whom he wrongly suspected of having a bomb. “If it’s true that all our vetting and due diligence on Mr. Simmons missed this, that’s big, and that’s on me, and only me,” said Neil Cavuto once news of Simmons’ indictment broke. “You have a right to expect guests who appear here to be who they say they are here.”
Or, at the very least, Fox News viewers have a right to guests that look like they are who they say they are. Be it known: If you are a man over 50 with close-cropped hair and notably leathery skin, you can extemporize convincingly about threat matrices and missile defense, and you are willing to spend a few bucks on some old medals, an exciting new career opportunity in the field of televised fraudulence awaits. You, too, could be an official Fox News Leathery Military Man!
*This post has been updated to credit the Navy Times’ reporting on John Garofalo.