FACT CHECK: Is Ron DeSantis The Only Veteran Running For President?

Elias Atienza | Senior Reporter
Correction 7/27/2023: Two candidates who have declared for the Republican presidential nomination, E.W Jackson and Corey Stapleton, served in the military. This necessitates a change in the verdict from “True” to “False.” We regret this error.

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis claimed during a July 18 interview that he is the only veteran running for president.

Verdict: False

Corey Stapleton, who declared his candidacy for the presidency in November 2022, is a U.S. Navy veteran. E.W. Jackson is a Marine Corps veteran.

Fact Check:

DeSantis sat down with CNN host Jake Tapper, where he discussed various issues such as China, his campaign and electability, according to CNN. During the interview, he claimed he was the only veteran running.

“Yeah, we are. I think this is a great setup for me. I’m the only veteran running. I’ll be the first president-elected since 1988 that served in a war,” DeSantis said. (RELATED: Did More People Move Out Of Florida Than New York And California?)

This claim, however, is false, as two candidates who declared for the Republican Party candidacy are veterans. Two long-shot candidates, Corey Stapleton and E.W Jackson, are veterans. Stapleton was a U.S. naval officer, according to his campaign website. Jackson served in the Marines from 1970 to 1973, the Richmond Times Dispatch reported.

Check Your Fact also reviewed the biographies of other presidential candidates running for president in both the Democratic and Republican parties.

None of the three declared Democratic Party candidates are veterans. President Joe Biden received several draft deferments through the Vietnam War and served as a Senator for 36 years before becoming vice president and president. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. spent his career as an environmental lawyer, activist and vaccine skeptic. Marianne Williamson, an author and activist, did not serve in the military.

None of the other candidates for the Republican party are veterans. (RELATED: Did Donald Trump Win Nevada Twice?)

  • Trump also received several draft deferments throughout the Vietnam War and is a billionaire famous for being a real estate developer and businessman.
  • Tim Scott is a lifelong politician, serving in the Charleston City Council, South Carolina state legislature, U.S. Congress and the U.S. Senate.
  • Nikki Haley worked in her family business before she was elected to the South Carolina state legislature and governorship. She also served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
  • Mike Pence worked as a lawyer and radio host before he was elected to the U.S. Congress in 2000. He later served as Governor of Indiana and Vice President of the U.S.
  • Perry Johnson is a life-long businessman, according to his Wikipedia page.
  • Vivek Ramaswamy is an “anti-woke” entrepreneur and millionaire, according to Insider.
  • Doug Burgum is a businessman and the current Governor of North Dakota.
  • Ryan Binkley is a businessman who previously worked for companies such as Procter & Gamble, according to his campaign website.
  • Chris Christie worked as a lawyer before becoming U.S. Attorney for the district of New Jersey and being elected as governor as the state, according to Britannica.
  • Larry Elder wrote several books and worked as a media personality and radio host before running for Governor of California in 2021, according to his Wikipedia page.
  • Asa Hutchinson worked as a lawyer and a U.S. district attorney, along with being elected to the U.S. Congress and Governor of Arkansas, according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas.
  • Francis Suarez worked as a lawyer while being elected to the Miami Commission and the mayor of Miami, according to his Wikipedia page.

Hurd, a former congressman who declared in June, served as an undercover CIA officer for years, including stints in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan between 2001 and 2009, according to The New York Times. The CIA is a civilian agency, and Check Your Fact reached out to the Hurd campaign and the CIA to see if Hurd would be considered a veteran by either of them.

Check Your Fact also reviewed the declared presidential candidates for the Libertarian and Green Party nominations. None of them are veterans.

Libertarian Party presidential candidate Mike Ter Maat worked in finance, economics and as a police officer, according to his campaign website. Chase Oliver describes himself as an activist, does not mention any military service on his campaign website and worked in the import shipping business. Lars Mapstead’s campaign website describes him as “a tech entrepreneur, road racing enthusiast…” His LinkedIn page makes no mention of military service.

Philosopher and academic Cornel West, who declared his candidacy for the Green Party presidential nomination, did not serve in the military. Check Your Fact could not find any evidence that Randy Toler, who declared for the Green Party presidential nomination as well, served in the military. He has worked for IBM and in pizza delivery.

The last president to serve in a war was George H.W. Bush, who served in World War II as a pilot on the Pacific Front, according to his White House biography. Neither Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama nor Donald Trump served in a war. DeSantis served in the U.S. Navy and was deployed to Iraq, according to his biography on the Florida Department of State website.

Elias Atienza

Senior Reporter
Follow Elias on Twitter Have a fact check suggestion? Send ideas to [email protected].