It’s Not Just Donald Trump, These Famous Americans Also Received Draft Deferments
Every election season, Americans learn about the military records (or lack thereof) of the presidential candidates. In Hillary Clinton’s case, the former secretary of state never had a chance to be drafted, so that was an easy one in 2016.
Donald Trump, on the other hand, was certainly of draft age during Vietnam yet never served in the war. Upon further investigation, it turned out Trump, who’s mocked the record of U.S. war heroes, avoided combat because of a weakness in his foot.
Trump is not alone when it comes to politicians and other self-proclaimed patriots who dodged military service. Here are eight other famous Americans who received draft deferments, including one former president (page 4).
1. John Wayne
- The famous patriot and war-movie actor got a family deferment.
John Wayne looked like a war hero in The Sands of Iwo Jima, The Green Berets, and the many westerns in which he fights tooth and nail on the frontier. However, when World War II broke out, Wayne claimed a deferment on the grounds he had to support his family.
Later, even as legendary director John Ford told Wayne he needed to serve, the film star found excuses to stay out of the military. The only fighting Wayne did was on Hollywood sets.
Next: This hawkish vice president nearly set a record for deferments.
2. Dick Cheney
- The man who pushed for (and profited from) the 2003 Iraq war received 5 deferments.
You won’t find a bigger hawk than Dick Cheney, who was vice president to George W. Bush and someone who pushed hard for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. (In several cases, Cheney misled the American public about Middle East intelligence.)
Meanwhile, Cheney managed to profit off of the Iraq war because his old company, Halliburton, was the top U.S. government contractor there. But Cheney didn’t feel the same way about war when was eligible to serve in Vietnam.
According to Selective Service record, Cheney received five deferments in three years — four for college and one for being a parent.
Next: This presidential candidate became much more open to war when he had no chance to serve.
3. Mitt Romney
- College and religion were Romney’s reasons for deferments.
Since Mitt Romney lost the 2012 election, we’ll never know how he’d act on military matters from the Oval Office. However, Romney certainly acted hawkish on the campaign trail, promising more aggressive action with respect to Iran and other Middle East hotspots.
As for his own service record, the candidate for senator from Utah doesn’t have one. He got three deferments for education and one for religious reasons from 1965-70.
Next: To avoid the Vietnam draft, Bill Clinton pulled out all the stops.
4. Bill Clinton
- First, the 42nd POTUS received a deferment for education. But his maneuvering had just begun.
The saga of Bill Clinton and his draft status began with a student deferment in 1964, when he was studying at Georgetown. However, by 1968, the government ended deferments for grad students, and the Rhodes Scholar began maneuvering to avoid service.
According to a Snopes fact-check post, he used connections with the naval reserve and the draft board to sidestep service so he could attend Oxford. Later, Clinton signed up for the ROTC program in order to avoid being drafted — but never served there, either.
Why has this history never damaged Clinton’s reputation? Probably because he never dragged the country into a war during his eight years as president. You can’t call him “a chickenhawk.”
Next: In Rudy Giuliani’s case, the usual deferments weren’t enough.
5. Rudy Giuliani
- The ex-New York mayor and failed presidential candidate requested multiple deferments.
When he ran for president in 2007-08, Rudy Giuliani said he understood terrorism and the Iraq war “better than anyone else running for president.” Republican primary voters disagreed and chose John McCain, a war hero, by a large margin. (Giuliani barely broke double-digit support in that campaign.)
Though he has been an advocate for war on many occasions over the years, Giuliani did whatever he could to avoid serving in the military. After multiple deferments for college, Giuliani actually asked for another because he was a law clerk.
When he was denied that request, he asked the judge he worked for to help him. The judge did, and Rudy was saved from fighting for his country.
Next: Being behind a microphone and fighting are two very different things.
6. Rush Limbaugh
- After 2 deferments, a buttocks cyst was Limbaugh’s reason for not going to Vietnam.
In 1969, Rush Limbaugh received two draft deferments to get out of serving in Vietnam, and both were for education. However, since Rush dropped out of college in his first year, that excuse didn’t hold.
At that point, it took a physical disability for Limbaugh to avoid fighting for the country. According to an in-depth fact-check by Snopes, a cyst on Rush’s buttocks was the reason he avoided the draft.
Next: No one will call Ted Nugent a patriot for this.
7. Ted Nugent
- The gun-toting conservative said a lot of things, but the record shows two deferments and a failed physical.
When people listen to Ted Nugent, it’s hard to know what to believe. That’s certainly the case with his draft deferments during Vietnam.
On the one hand, his education deferments were common. However, Nugent failed a physical, and it’s unclear what happened. In interviews, Nugent said he got himself impossibly dirty and unhealthy in order to scare the draft board, but he later changed his tale.
Next: This disgraced former Fox News host frequently called for war but never served.
8. Bill O’Reilly
- O’Reilly had a case of the deferments as a young man.
Bill O’Reilly, who was forced out of Fox News after a long history of sexual harassment, was a big proponent of the Iraq war. However, when he had the chance to defend American ideals in Vietnam, he opted out.
In this case, it was another example of someone taking a deferment for education rather than going to war.
Next: Trump once said having unprotected sex was ‘his Vietnam.’
9. Donald Trump
- At least 1 veteran in Congress referred to him as ‘Cadet Bone Spurs.’
Trump may talk about “fire and fury” when threatening war, but when his time to serve came he got four education deferments. Then, he got out of military service a fifth time because of bone spurs in his foot.
That’s why Tammy Duckworth, a combat veteran and senator from Illinois, began calling Trump “Cadet Bone Spurs” in early 2018. Yet the story doesn’t end there. In a Howard Stern interview, Trump said he felt “like a very brave soldier” for avoiding STDs in the 1990s.
“It’s amazing, I can’t even believe it,” Trump said. “I’ve been so lucky in terms of that whole world, it is a dangerous world out there. It’s like Vietnam, sort of. It is my personal Vietnam.”
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