Corrections & Clarifications: This story was updated Sept. 2 to note that Biden checked his watch multiple times at the dignified transfer event, including during the ceremony itself. The rating on this claim has been changed from partly false to missing context.
The claim: Donald Trump saluted the caskets of fallen U.S. service members, while Joe Biden checked his watch
On Aug. 29, President Joe Biden paid his respects to U.S. service members who were killed in a terrorist attack at the Kabul airport. The president and first lady Jill Biden bowed and placed their hands over their hearts as 11 caskets were presented at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
But on social media, some doubted Biden's sincerity.
One popular post features two photos: one of Biden and one of now-former President Donald Trump. The picture shows Biden appearing to check his watch, Trump salutes as men in fatigues carry a casket draped in the American flag.
"A picture is worth a thousand words," reads text over the post, published Aug. 30 on Facebook.
Similar posts have racked up hundreds of thousands of interactions on Facebook and Instagram, according to CrowdTangle, a social media insights tool.
Biden has taken heat from all sides for the chaotic evacuation of U.S. troops, citizens and allies from Afghanistan. But this meme's comparison between Trump saluting and Biden checking his watch is missing context.
USA TODAY reached out to social media users who shared the claim for comment.
Biden honored fallen troops
The full video of the dignified transfer ceremony shows Biden honored each of the fallen U.S. service members.
On Aug. 26, 11 Marines, one Navy hospital corpsman and an Army soldier were killed in bombings and gunfire at Hamid Karzai International Airport. ISIS-K, an Islamic State affiliate group in Afghanistan and Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the attack, which also killed at least 169 Afghans.
"These American service members who gave their lives ... they were heroes," Biden said during remarks after the terrorist attack. "Heroes who have been engaged in a dangerous, selfless mission to save the lives of others."
On Sunday, Biden met with service members' families and attended his first dignified transfer as president. Footage from the 45-minute ceremony shows Biden bowing his head and placing his hand over his heart as 11 caskets are carried off a plane and into gray vans. Two other transfers were conducted in private.
The way Biden paid his respects to the fallen service members is similar to what Trump did during his presidency.
The image of Trump in the Facebook posts appears to stem from a New York Times article published Nov. 21, 2019, when Trump attended a dignified transfer at Dover Air Force base to honor two Army soldiers killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. During the brief ceremony, Trump saluted as two caskets were carried into a waiting van.
Biden checked watch at least three times
While Biden did pay his respects to the fallen service members, photos and video show he also checked his watch during the ceremony.
Associated Press photos taken 10 minutes apart show Biden checking his watch during the ceremony. Another photo from the Agence France-Presse, distributed by Getty Images, also shows Biden glancing at his watch, although it's unclear what time the image was taken.
A video from C-SPAN shows Biden checking his watch once, near the end of the dignified transfer ceremony.
Footage leading up to the moment, which was widely shared on social media, shows Biden with his hand over his heart for about 30 seconds as vans carry the service members' remains off the tarmac. After the vans left, Biden closed his eyes briefly before dropping his arms and glancing down at his watch.
At that point, everyone else in the video also stands at ease, indicating that the ceremony was over. About 35 seconds later, Biden and the first lady walk off the tarmac toward a black SUV.
"As my son and the rest of our fallen heroes were being taken off the plane yesterday I watched you disrespect us all five different times by checking your watch," Shana Chappell, mother of Marine Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, wrote in an Aug. 30 Facebook post.
Darin Hoover, father of Marine Staff Sgt. Darin Taylor Hoover Jr., and Mark Schmitz, father of Marine Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, told Fox News' Sean Hannity that Biden checked his watch multiple times during the dignified transfer. Hoover said it happened after each casket was presented.
USA TODAY was unable to independently verify exactly how many times Biden looked at his watch.
When asked at an Aug. 31 briefing whether Biden checked his watch, White House press secretary Jen Psaki didn't provide a direct answer.
"Well, I would say his message to all of the family members who were there – those who were not even in attendance – is that he is grateful to their sons and daughters, the sacrifice they made to the country; that he knows firsthand what it’s like to lose a child and the fact that no one can tell you anything or say anything — or there’s no words that are going to fill that hole that is left by that," she said.
USA TODAY reached out to the White House and family members of the service members honored during the dignified transfer for additional comment.
Our rating: Missing context
Based on our research, we rate MISSING CONTEXT the claim that Trump saluted the caskets of fallen U.S. service members, while Biden checked his watch. The way Biden honored the 11 caskets presented at Dover Air Force Base, with a hand over his heart, was similar to how Trump paid respects to fallen service members during his presidency. However, Biden did check his watch at least three times, according to photos and video reviewed by USA TODAY. Several family members of fallen service members who attended the ceremony have criticized Biden for checking his watch.
Our fact-check sources:
USA TODAY, Aug. 29, Fact check: Bidens attended dignified transfer of 13 fallen service members
CrowdTangle, accessed Aug. 31
Factba.se, accessed Aug. 31, Remarks: Joe Biden Addresses the Terrorist Bombings in Kabul - August 26, 2021
USA TODAY, Aug. 29, Biden meets with families of service members killed in Kabul suicide bombing
The New York Times, Nov. 21, 2019, Trump Pays Respects to 2 Soldiers Killed in Afghanistan
USA TODAY, Nov. 21, 2019, Trump visits Dover to honor remains of two soldiers killed in Afghanistan
AP Archive on YouTube, Nov. 26, 2019, Trump at Dover AFB to receive remains of fallen soldiers
Getty Images, Nov. 21, 2019, Dignified Transfer Held For 2 Soldiers Killed In Helicopter Crash In Afghanistan
Associated Press, Aug. 29, Photo
Associated Press, Aug. 29, Photo
Associated Press, Aug. 29, Photo
Getty Images, Aug. 29, Photo
The Washington Post, Aug. 30, ‘Don’t you ever forget that name’: Biden’s tough meeting with grieving relatives
The New York Post, Aug. 31, Gold Star families blast Biden for checking watch during the ceremony for fallen
Shana Chappell, Aug. 30, Facebook post
Reuters Pictures, accessed Sept. 2
Snopes, Sept. 1, Did Biden Check Watch 13 Times During Transfer of Fallen Soldiers?
Fox News, accessed Sept. 2, Fathers of Marines killed in Kabul blast rip Biden: 'He talked more about his son than my son'
The White House, Aug. 31, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, August 31, 2021
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Biden honored service members during dignified transfer