Yesterday, news of Vernon Baker’s family being turned away at the White House spread quickly. Now, the White House has admitted error in turning away the Medal of Honor winner’s family fore “dress code” reasons.
Family of Medal of Honor recipient Vernon Baker was denied access to the White House’s West Wing on Saturday, a day after the World War II hero was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Baker’s widow, Heidy, and grandson, Vernon Pawlik, 10, were denied entry because the boy was wearing shorts and a T-shirt. His shirt had a picture of his grandfather on it.
The family said it checked ahead of time to make sure there was not a dress code, and said it could not find anything.
Last night, a White House spokesman said that the incident was the result of an “unfortunate misunderstanding,” according to the the Spokesman-Review.
“We would have loved to have hosted 10-year-old Vernon and his family at the White House and we have reached out to the Baker family and Lt. Norris to communicate our deep regret and invite them back to the White House,” spokesman Adam Abrams said. “This family, as well as Lt. Norris, have given so much to our nation and they have our sincerest appreciation and our apologies for this misunderstanding.”
Norris, mentioned above, accompanied the family and was also denied access. Although he is a retired FBI agent and himself a Medal of Honor winner, the Secret Service didn’t have time to complete a background check on him.
Ahead of the spokesman’s announcement last night, some of Idaho’s politicians (where the family is from) were notified of the incident and were angry. Sen. Mike Crapo (R) was preparing a written letter, while U.S. Rep. Walt Minnick (D) is said to have been “very upset.”
Vernon Baker was the only living black World War II veteran to receive the Medal of Honor, the Review reports. In 1945 he rallied his fellow troops after their commander deserted and took a German stronghold in Italy, in the process taking out three machine gun nests, two bunkers, and an observation post.
That Associated Press contributed to this report.