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Report: ‘American Sniper’ Chris Kyle Lied About His Medal Count

Lies told by 'American Sniper' Chris Kyle continue to mount.

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Chris Kyle, the deadliest sniper in U.S. history, is a legend. His autobiography, American Sniper, sold more than 1 million copies and was turned into a film; he was played by Bradley Cooper in what would become the highest-grossing war movie in history. He claims 160 “confirmed kills” during 10 years of military service. His death at the hands of a fellow veteran in 2013 only added to his mystique.

“All told,” Kyle wrote, “I would end my career as a SEAL with two Silver Stars and five Bronze [Stars], all for valor.”

It turns out that is not true.

As first reported by The Intercept, Kyle exaggerated his medal count. In a piece published Wednesday, it found that Kyle had instead earned one Silver Star and three Bronze Stars with Valor. The website cited internal Navy documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, as well as interviews with unnamed Navy officials.

According to the report, Kyle was warned by the Pentagon before he published his book that his medal count was incorrect. And this isn’t like embellishing a résumé; lying about medals and achievements is a serious ethical violation that could violate both the military’s Uniform Code of Military Justice and federal law.

The revelation is also likely to raise new questions about what’s true and what’s not in Kyle’s account of his life. He lied about punching former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura after alleging that Ventura criticized the Iraq War and said SEALs “deserve to lose a few”; the former wrestler was awarded $1.8 million in a defamation suit against the Kyle estate. His story about killing two would-be carjackers? Untrue. His tales about shooting dozens of looters from the roof of the Superdome in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina have also been proven false.

None of that made it into Clint Eastwood’s film, which ends with scenes of Kyle’s memorial in Cowboy Stadium and images of the thousands of people who lined the highways leading to the venue.

Photo credit: WARNER BROS.

David Francis was a senior reporter for Foreign Policy, where he covered international finance. @davidcfrancis

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