White House initially denies rep.'s request to attend Medal of Honor event

The White House initially denied a request by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) to attend a Medal of Honor ceremony for a fellow Marine Corps and Afghanistan war veteran, a congressional source said.

Hunter first learned last week about plans for President Obama to award former Marine Cpl. Dakota Meyer the Medal of Honor during a Thursday ceremony at the White House. Hunter formally requested to attend the ceremony earlier this week, but the White House said no, the congressional source said.

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The source said the lone reason for the denial given during a brief phone call from a White House official was because “the room was already full.”

An hour after The Hill asked the White House about the apparent snub, however, Hunter’s office said an invitation was extended shortly after noon.

A White House spokesman has yet to respond to that inquiry.

Joe Kasper, Hunter’s press secretary, said the lawmaker will attend the ceremony.

“It’s surprising that the White House would first deny a request from the only Marine combat vet of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in Congress to attend the award ceremony — especially when this time around it’s a Marine receiving the honor,” Kasper said. 

“There’s a lot of pride in the Marine Corps, and this is a special moment for each and every Marine, regardless of when they served. Regardless of why exactly the first request was denied, Congressman Hunter is grateful for the opportunity to attend the ceremony.”

Meyer will be the first living Marine to receive the award for his combat actions in either the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. Two other living U.S. military veterans of those conflicts have been awarded the prestigious Medal of Honor.

Since coming to office in 2009, Hunter has been an advocate for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. He is a member of the House Armed Services Committee. Hunter quit his job after the 9/11 attacks and joined the Marine Corps. He served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.

In a Thursday email announcement about the ceremony, the White House said Meyer showed “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity” in Afghanistan. The same email included a picture of Obama and Meyer talking on a patio outside the Oval Office over beers.