New York, NY – Immigration Customs and Enforcement has demanded an apology from the New Yorker magazine and one of its employees, after the staffer erroneously accused a combat-wounded Marine veteran and current ICE agent of having a Nazi tattoo.
ICE had posted a photo of Agent Justin Gaertner to Twitter on May 25 to help educate the public about training opportunities for veterans.
Over the weekend, Talia Lavin, a Harvard-educated fact-checker for the New Yorker, wrote in a tweet that one of Agent Gaertner’s tattoos looked like an Iron Cross, the New York Post reported.
Lavin’s comment “essentially labeled him a Nazi,” ICE said in a statement on Monday.
She quickly received backlash over the comment from military veterans who noted that they symbol appeared to be a Maltese cross, which is associated with firefighters, the agency said.
Lavin has since deleted the post, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
“The tattoo on his left elbow is actually a ‘Titan 2,’ the symbol for his platoon while he fought in Afghanistan,” ICE wrote. “The writing on his right arm is the Spartan Creed which is about protecting family and children.”
Agent Gaertner lost both of his legs on Thanksgiving Day in 2010, while he was serving in the U.S. Marines as a fire team leader and lead IED sweeper in Afghanistan, ICE said in a press release.
“During one of three combat deployments…he was wounded by IEDs, resulting in the loss of both legs and permanent injuries,” the agency explained. “[He] continues to serve his country as an ICE computer forensics analyst, helping to solve criminal cases and rescue children who have been sexually abused.”
In addition to working for ICE, Agent Gaertner also became a para-Olympic athlete and has volunteered his time to support and motivate other wounded veterans and victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.
ICE admonished Lavin for having spread misinformation and urged her and the New Yorker to apologize to Agent Gaertner.
“Anyone attempting to advance their personal political opinions by baselessly slandering an American hero should be issuing public apologies to Mr. Gaertner and retractions,” the agency asserted. “This includes LAvin and the New Yorker.
Actor Ron Perlman jumped on board with suggesting the hero was a Nazi.
“I know I’m a leftist, ‘D List’ actor, so my twitter feed is probably deceiving me, but is that an iron cross tattooed on this hero’s arm? This is a mistake, right? Cuz the Iron Cross was a symbol of Nazi Germany. Gotta be my twitter feed is leaning left again,” Perlman tweeted, along with a photo of Agent Gaertner.
After being informed that he was wrong, Perlman tweeted an apology.
On Monday, the New Yorker issued a statement on the incident, but refused to take responsibility for the off-duty staffer.
“The New Yorker has just learned that a staff member erroneously made a derogatory assumption about ICE agent Justin Gaertner’s tattoo,” a spokesperson said, according to the New York Post. “The personal social-media accounts of staff members do not represent the magazine, and we in no way share the viewpoint expressed in this tweet. The tweet has been deleted, and we deeply regret any harm that this may have caused Mr. Gaertner.”
Lavin has not commented on the issue and has changed her Twitter account to private, the New York Post reported.
Correction: Fixed spelling on Lavin’s name.