Chuck DeVore, the conservative candidate in California’s U.S. Senate election, has apparently embellished an incident in which he says he was “shot at in Lebanon.”
As the L.A. Times reports today, part of DeVore’s personal mythology is that he was “shot at in Lebanon.” He said it in a recent debate, in interviews, in a Facebook post about whether the Council for American-Islamic Relations is really a “terror-loving group.”He often mentions the 1984 incident in the same breath as his service in the Army reserves, although he wasn’t in Lebanon as part of his military duty, but as a student on a media tour.
In the March debate, he said it in response to a question about why he’s the best candidate to “represent the country in the Senate in the midst of a war on terrorism.”
“I am the sole candidate on either side of the aisle with military experience. I’m a lieutenant colonel of military intelligence within the U.S. Army. … I have been to Israel four times, I’ve studied in Egypt, I’ve been shot at in Lebanon, I’ve experienced the gritty reality of the Middle East. This has, I think, given me good insight into the present conflict in the Middle East,” he said, in part.
In the Facebook post questioning CAIR’s intentions, he wrote, “I spent 24 years in the U.S. Army as an intelligence officer with a top secret clearance. I also studied Arabic and spent half a year at the American University in Cairo, Egypt. I’ve been to Israel four times, been shot at in Lebanon, and have traveled the West Bank. As such, I know a few things about Islam, CAIR, HAMAS, the Muslim Brotherhood, etc.”
The Times dug into the incident and found that saying he was “shot at” is somewhat of a stretch.
At the time — and DeVore described this readily in an interview with the Times — he was a student studying in Egypt. He called the Israeli army and asked to see the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, describing himself as a student, a member of the Army Reserves and a credentialed reporter. He was taken on a media tour.
“The Syrians shot at us and kind of drove us off the hill, because they didn’t want press over there. It was like warning shots,” DeVore told the Times.
In another interview this March, he said, “The Syrian Army in Lebanon started shooting at us … I dropped to the ground. But the journalists we were with just kept standing. You could hear the shh, shh, shh, of the bullet rounds as they got closer. And the journalists were still standing. I asked the Israelis we were with, “Why are they test firing?” They said, “Don’t take it personally, but they’re not test firing.” The Syrian army was trying to shoo us away from the hill.”
The Times spoke to former ABC News correspondent Bob Zelnick, who was also on the tour.
Zelnick said the group climbed an observation tower in Israeli-occupied Lebanese territory, from which the Bekaa Valley could be seen. He recalls the Israeli troops taunting the Syrians, who fired shots in response. But Zelnick said they were out of range and that Israeli journalists present had publicly teased him for reacting to the gunshots. “Nothing I saw or experienced could reasonably be interpreted as our having been driven off the hill by Syrian fire,” he said.
In his interview with the Times, DeVore readily admitted he had never seen combat.
DeVore said he was “shot at” only once in his military career; during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. His National Guard unit was deployed near Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza and, while the troops were on patrol, a gunshot blew out the window of a car about 20 feet away.