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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke September 14, 2021

No, Lloyd Austin didn’t text military personnel to say they needed to get vaccinated or face a court

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  • There’s no evidence to support this claim. The Defense Department has said it’s not true, and it originated on a website that has previously published baseless claims. 

A viral Instagram video claims that U.S. military personnel were ordered by text message to get vaccinated in less than a day or else face a court martial.

"A text message went out last night from the secretary of defense to all the active military personnel saying you know by 10 a.m. you have to go get the magic potion or you’re going to be court martialed," a man says, speaking to a camera. "So as a result of that, 12 F-22 pilots, the most highly trained pilots in the world, walked off the job. That’s 12 multimillion dollar aircraft grounded." 

This post, shared on Instagram on Sept. 8, was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The allegation is not true.

The Defense Department did not respond to PolitiFact’s query about this video. But we have previously debunked a similar claim about 27 Air Force pilots resigning over vaccine requirements in a blog post that appeared on the site Real Raw News. The site features a disclaimer that "information on this site is for informational and education and entertainment purposes. This website contains humor, parody and satire."

The blog post says that the "exodus" of Air Force pilots began with "12 pilots from the 1st Fighter Wing at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, submitting to their commanding officer letters of resignation only hours after they received a 4:00 a.m. text message instruction them to submit to mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations by 10 a.m. that same day."

A spokesperson for the Air Force told PolitiFact: "We are unaware of any pilots that have resigned their commissions due to the COVID vaccine." 

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And on Sept. 10, a spokesperson told Reuters that "no pilots from the 1st Fighter Wing have resigned their commission due to the COVID-19 vaccination mandate."

The Pentagon announced in August that service members would be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Less than two weeks later, the Air Force said that unless they were seeking an exemption, active duty airmen needed to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 2. Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve personnel have until Dec. 2.

Anyone who refuses to receive the COVID-19 vaccine without an approved exemption or accomodation, according to the Air Force, "may be punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice." Potential disciplinary action under the code includes non-judicial punishments, such as having to do extra duties, and court martials.   

But it doesn’t track that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin would send an early-morning text message demanding all active military personnel to get the vaccine or face a court martial.

A Defense Department spokesperson told CNN that there was no such text message, and that Austin has "never sent any kind of force-wide text message" — ever. 

We found no credible sources to corroborate either the social media video or the blog post. 

We rate this claim Pants on Fire.


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No, Lloyd Austin didn’t text military personnel to say they needed to get vaccinated or face a court

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