Gold Star families torched the Biden administration over the deadly withdrawal from Afghanistan, accusing the president of utilizing the botched exit as a political ploy as the desperate demand for answers continues.
Steve Nikoui lost his son Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui during the Kabul airport bombing on August 26, 2021, alongside 12 other service members. Nikoui was one of the Gold Star parents who testified during a congressional forum in California on Monday.
He joined “Fox & Friends First” on Tuesday to discuss why he believes his son was collateral damage in Biden’s “photo-op” to claim victory over America’s longest war.
“The singularity that I got from this whole thing was that… it’s part of the problem with what’s wrong with society today… anything at the cost of an optics. And that’s what this was,” Nikoui told co-host Carley Shimkus Tuesday. “This was the optics of Joe Biden to get his… September 11th… I’ve terminated this 20-year war, etc., etc.. These 13 kids, they were killed for that photo-op. That was it.”
Many of the families accused the Biden administration of lying about the botched exit. Nikoui said he was given false information and knew high-level officials were lying to him about the details of his son’s tragic passing.
“We had an after-action report. I remember I think a general came over to our house and told us about [it], explained it to us. And in talking to the other families recently… it was obvious that everyone’s after-action report was completely different,” Nikoui said. “Some of the spots where they said, hey, your child was right here. They had told other people the same exact spot.”
“A lot of you look a lot of the information that they gave us, if you’re a mature, responsible adult and do any kind of just basic cross-referencing, you find out you’ve been lied to,” he continued. “I’m 50 years old. 51 years old… Don’t lie to me. I’m not stupid.”
Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover was another service member who died from the Abbey Gate airport blast. His parents, Kelly Barnett and Darin Hoover, also testified during the forum.
“It was a little bit cleansing,” Hoover said during “Fox & Friends” Tuesday. “There’s still… a lot of the anger and the angst left behind. It’s important, just like we’ve discussed before of having our kids’ names out there, and as long as we can keep doing this and Congress keeps giving us the voice now, where we didn’t have that the first two years, the door was basically slammed in our face.”
“But they’ve come in and given us this opportunity. Brian, we’re going to run with it,” he continued.
Barnett broke down when describing her son’s fifth and final deployment to Afghanistan in 2021. She said they were made to “clean up the airport” on the way out, to not “leave it dirty for the Taliban.”
She also accused the Biden administration of lying about the details of the U.S. exit, which ultimately resulted in the loss of her son.
“The lies, given incomplete reports, incorrect reports, total disrespect,” Barnett said during her emotional recollection Monday. “There were gunshots. All I wanted to know [was] where my kid was, where he fell, how long did he last? Did he fight?”
“I was told to my face he died on impact. That’s not true,” she continued. “The only reason that I know this is because witnesses told me the truth. I was lied to and basically told to shut up, that that’s the way it was.”
She said once she realized she was being lied to about the details of her child’s last moments she was heartbroken.
“My son gave 11 years of his life to this country, and I think that deserves some dang respect, and I didn’t get that respect when he died for his country,” she said Tuesday. “I feel that that is a knife in the heart, knife in the back, and it was the lies that they told were unnecessary.”
“It completed no mission to lie to me,” she continued. “It’s just heartbreaking.”
Gold Star mom Cheryl Rex also echoed the others’ sentiment about being “lied to since the very beginning” surrounding the details of the withdrawal and the moments leading up to the death of her son, Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola.
“[I’ve] been lied to since the very beginning,” she told co-host Ainsely Earhardt. “The stories don’t coincide. You always believe your boots on the ground and their stories don’t retract Back to what we’ve been given, the information, all the way down to the way our kids have passed away.”
Nikoui told an anecdote of a game he and Kareem shared when he would return to his base during his closing remarks Monday.
“I would be [at] the other end of the house far away, and I would wait to hear the door creak because of the hinge, the front door. And as soon as I heard that, I would yell as loud as I could his name, Kareem. And this was to pay homage to every father-son movie ever made. … I’d be like, ‘Avenge me!’ And, you know, and I would come and look at him, and he’d have the biggest smile,” Nikou said.
“And now all I hear is him in his soft voice, ‘Avenge me.’”
Shimkus asked Nikoui what avenging his son looks like after his passing.
“I really don’t know,” Nikoui responded. “I guess what we’re doing now… I think just just to have a recognition… to have our government say, look, we made a mistake. These are their names. We appreciate, you… because inevitably the younger kids that are trying to enlist now, they’re looking at these experiences that our country has had,” Nikoui said. “And I wouldn’t want to be a young man and go into this armed services with the withdrawal of the evacuation fresh on my mind.”
“So I think it’s important that we make it right so that… the character, honor and morality of our young kids is in intact,” he continued.
Nikoui said his son, who died at 20 years old, wanted to become a Marine for years and had been training and preparing himself in the years leading up to his enlistment.
Fox News’ Elizabeth Elkind contributed to this report.
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