FACT CHECK: Did James Mattis Say People Who Burn The American Flag Will ‘Spend Two Years In The Military’?

Trevor Schakohl | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook claims former Defense Secretary James Mattis said, “If you burn the American flag you’ll spend two years in the military.”

Verdict: False

There is no record of Mattis saying this quote.

Fact Check:

A post on Facebook claims Mattis, who served as Defense Secretary under former President Donald Trump from January 2017 to December 2018, said: “Forget Jail: If you burn the American flag, you’ll spend two years in the military. I promise you, you’ll be cured of the desire to burn a flag ever again. You’ll be wavin’ it; saluting it; or, … you’ll be lying under it.”

There is, however, no record of Mattis making such a statement. Check Your Fact searched the Defense Department’s press releases and verified Twitter account, but found no instances of the remark. Nor did the quote appear on the Defense Department’s Facebook page.

Mattis does not appear to have any public social media accounts where he could have shared the comment, either. Had Mattis actually made the statement attributed to him in the Facebook post, media outlets likely would have reported on it, yet none have.

Supreme Court rulings have deemed the burning of the American flag legal under the First Amendment, according to ABC News. (RELATED: Does This Image Show An Underwater American Flag At Pearl Harbor Being Replaced?)

Iterations of the statement attributed to Mattis have been circulating online since at least December 2016, when media outlet The Federalist Papers Project shared the same image of Mattis with text reading, “Forget jail burn a flag and you have to serve 2 years in the military. I promise you’ll be cured of a desire to burn a flag under this guy.”

The quote appears to reference a November 2016 tweet from Trump where he argued people who burn the flag should face consequences such as “loss of citizenship or year in jail.”

Trevor Schakohl

Fact Check Reporter
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