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Boebert heckled Biden about deaths in Afghanistan while he mentioned his son's cancer

Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo. (left), and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., stand with fellow lawmakers as they listen to President Biden's State of the Union address.
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Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo. (left), and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., stand with fellow lawmakers as they listen to President Biden's State of the Union address.

Colorado Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert heckled President Biden during his State of the Union speech as he was describing the death of his son Beau Biden, an Iraq War veteran who succumbed to brain cancer.

Biden outlined the severe medical symptoms that U.S. troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan endured from breathing in toxic fumes from "burn pits," saying many of the troops developed "a cancer that would put them in a flag-draped coffin."

"You put them in. Thirteen of them," Boebert then yelled, referring to the terrorist attack at a gate outside the Kabul airport last summer that killed 13 U.S. service members.

The outburst drew immediate and loud boos inside the chamber. Biden appeared to look in the direction of Boebert but continued with his remarks, saying that one of those killed by cancer "was my son, Major Beau Biden." He acknowledged he didn't know if exposure to the fumes led to Beau's cancer but added he was committed to investigating any links.

Biden then introduced Danielle Robinson, the widow of Sgt. 1st Class Heath Robinson, a combat medic who was stationed "just yards from burn pits the size of football fields" and died later, and announced expanded Veterans Affairs coverage for nine respiratory cancers.

Boebert defended her actions in a tweet, saying she "couldn't stay silent."

Boebert, a member of the far-right wing of the House Republicans, drew bipartisan criticism last year after she made Islamophobic comments about Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who is Muslim.

The president's handling of the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan last summer drew bipartisan criticism, with lawmakers especially incensed that the administration did not have a plan to evacuate embassy staff and Afghan allies. The attack that killed the 13 service members came days before the planned full withdrawal from the country that had been taken over by the Taliban.

The Colorado Republican's outburst during the high-profile State of the Union was similar to an incident in 2009 when Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., yelled, "You lie!" at then-President Barack Obama about his health care plan. Wilson apologized afterward but then went on to fundraise off of the controversy.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.

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