Were Donald Trump, John Cornyn 'draft dodgers'?
About a year ago, we rated Pants on Fire a claim that Texas U.S. Sen. John Cornyn dodged the draft during the Vietnam War.
Democratic challenger David Alameel then stressed that as a Trinity University undergraduate, Cornyn took student deferments shielding himself from getting drafted. Our conclusion, in contrast, was his claim put no stock in Cornyn registering for the draft and qualifying for the deferments, which many men eligible for service took. We said such men weren’t draft dodgers in the sense of fleeing the country, for instance, or otherwise hustling from the government's reach.
This week, PunditFact in Washington, D.C., asked if Donald Trump was a dodger.
Its story didn’t declare a yes or a no. Like ours on Cornyn, though, the story noted that as a student, Trump had sought and received student deferments in the years he could have been drafted.
Ronald Kuby, a criminal and civil rights lawyer and talk-show host, appeared on WABC-AM in New York City on July 15, 2015, mentioning the multiple student deferments Trump received, and how he finally got a medical exemption that staved off the draft. Kuby said Trump "was a Vietnam draft dodger."
Elaborating to PunditFact, Kuby later said: "I use the term broadly to mean anyone who took advantage of deferments to avoid being drafted."
In theory, that could apply to a huge number of people. In the course of the Vietnam War, about 15.4 million men received deferments, were exempted or disqualified. In contrast to those millions, the government charged 210,000 people with draft violations, ranging from burning their draft cards to refusing to serve to fleeing the country.
"The only people who violated the Selective Service Act did so out of principle," Kuby said. "They were going to show they were not cowards by risking imprisonment to protest an immoral war. If you were white and middle class, there were many legal ways out."
Kuby said that draft dodger is not a legal term.
Michael Tigar, professor of law emeritus at Duke Law School, agrees. In 1969, Tigar co-wrote an analysis of the Selective Service system for the George Washington University Law Review.
"The term ‘draft dodging’ is a characterization that does not reflect any legal category, but rather somebody's view of the assiduousness and honesty with which a draft registrant seeks to avoid service," Tigar told us. "Many people who might have sought exemption or deferment from the draft decided to volunteer. Many others sought ways around participation in the military conflict."