It was a report that fit perfectly with the narrative of those attacking President Donald Trump’s immigration policies: an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent photographed sporting a Nazi tattoo.
Although Twitter erupted in anger, there was one problem: The report was incorrect.
The outrage began when Talia Lavin, a staff member and fact-checker at The New Yorker, tweeted a photo of ICE agent Justin Gaertner with a caption that said he had a tattoo of an Iron Cross, a long-time German military honor used by Nazi Germany, Fox News reported.
The image Lavin tweeted was released as part of ICE’s efforts to promote its Human Exploitation Rescue Operative Child-Rescue Corps, known as HERO, which is designed to target pedophiles.
People on Twitter immediately vilified Gaertner.
After a weekend of invective aimed at ICE and Gaertner, ICE issued a statement Monday to clarify the situation and demanded an apology.
“Over the weekend, social media perpetuated by a tweet by New Yorker reporter Talia Levin (sic) erroneously implied that a tattoo on one of his arms was an Iron Cross and essentially labeled him a Nazi,” ICE wrote.
“Levin deleted her post after military veterans responded that the tattoo looked more like a Maltese cross, a symbol associated with fire fighters.”
“The tattoo on his left elbow is actually ‘Titan 2,’ the symbol for his platoon while he fought in Afghanistan,” ICE said.
In fact, Gaertner lost both legs while fighting in Afghanistan.
“The writing on his right arm is the Spartan Creed which is about protecting family and children,” the statement added.
“Anyone attempting to advance their personal political opinions by baselessly slandering an American hero should be issuing public apologies to Mr. Gaertner and retractions. This includes Levin and The New Yorker,” ICE added.
Lavin then locked her Twitter account and offered no apology.
Some who supported her squirmed after the truth about the picture came out.
On Monday, The New Yorker distanced itself from Lavin, as reported by The National Review.
“The New Yorker has just learned that a staff member erroneously made a derogatory assumption about ICE agent Justin Gaertner’s tattoo. The personal social-media accounts of staff members do not represent the magazine, and we in no way share the viewpoint expressed in this tweet,” a spokesperson said in a statement to National Review. “The tweet has been deleted, and we deeply regret any harm that this may have caused Mr. Gaertner.”
Gaertner, of New Port Richey, Florida, lost his legs in 2010 when he stepped on an explosive device during his third tour of duty in Afghanistan, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
He initially rejected an offer for his current role, but then reconsidered.
“Savings kids lives and getting these people off the streets outweighed the nature of the images and videos you have to look at,” he said.
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