Robert McDonald, the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs, said early this year that he served with U.S. special operations forces during his time in the military. McDonald did serve in the 82nd Airborne Division in the 1970s, but not with the special forces. McDonald made the false claim while meeting a homeless man who said he had served in special forces. McDonald was being filmed by a CBS TV unit when he swiftly answered, "What year? I was in the special forces."
CBS was filming a segment about homelessness among veterans, which as secretary McDonald has a mandate to reverse. On encountering the homeless vet, McDonald used the "special forces" lie to try to establish common ground in the conversation, to create empathy. (Empathy: "the capacity to understand what another person is experiencing from within the other person's frame of reference.") What McDonald did is the verbal equivalent of what psychologists call "mirroring," acting as much like the person you are talking with in order to "build rapport." McDonald's fabrication is not on his resume nor has he made the claim elsewhere or repeatedly, as far as is known. It was a one-off, meant to increase the likelihood of engaging the veteran. McDonald has apologized for the error, which while well-meaning paradoxically devalues any potentially meaningful dialogue. “I have no excuse,” McDonald told The Huffington Post. “I was not in special forces.”
[Check out the "Most Interesting Finds" on Amazon ]