Trump boasts about getting 'Bay of Pigs award' – which doesn't exist

Attacking Joe Biden and seeking to exploit reports that his rival is struggling with Latino voters, Donald Trump boasted on Sunday of receiving “the highly honoured Bay of Pigs award” from Cuban Americans in the battleground state of Florida.

Perhaps inevitably, and to the glee of the internet, no such award exists.

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The Bay of Pigs invasion, in April 1961, saw a CIA-sponsored force of Cuban exiles attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro and his communist regime. The failure of the mission continues to haunt US-Cuban relations, even after Barack Obama sought to bring the nations closer together.

Trump, whose company reportedly broke the Cuba trade embargo in 1998, has sought to reverse Obama’s policies.

In his tweet on Sunday, he may have misremembered previous visits to a house in Little Havana, in Miami, which houses a Bay of Pigs museum and library and where survivors of Brigade 2506, the unit which carried out the invasion, gather to talk and remember.

Trump visited in 1999, when he was flirting with a run for president on the Reform party ticket. He was given gifts, if not awards: a brigade pin and, the Associated Press reported, “a plaque of the shoulder patch worn during the invasion”.

Trump visited the museum again in October 2016, receiving “a hand-painted Brigade 2506 shield” which his campaign insisted on Sunday was the award in question.

Receiving the endorsement of the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association, Trump said: “You were fighting for the values of freedom and liberty that unite us all. The same values that are at stake in our election.”

Donald Trump receives a brigade pin at the Bay of Pigs museum, on 15 November 1999.
Donald Trump receives a brigade pin at the Bay of Pigs museum, in November 1999. Photograph: Wilfredo Lee/AP

He went on to beat Hillary Clinton in Florida and in the race for the White House. But at the time of the endorsement from the influential rightwing veterans group, he trailed Clinton in the state by 3.3%.

The website now puts Biden up by 2.6% in Florida. The Democrat will be supported by $100m from the former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg. But in Florida and in other states with large Latino populations, including Nevada where the president campaigned this weekend, Trump seems to be sensing his chance.

Pouncing on reports that the Vermont democratic socialist senator Bernie Sanders has “concerns” about Biden’s campaign, Trump tweeted: “Sleepy Joe Biden has spent 47 years in politics being terrible to Hispanics. Now he is relying on Castro lover Bernie Sanders to help him out. That won’t work!”

Trump has a well-documented habit of claiming to have received awards and honours which do not exist or which he has never been given. Famously, the president has displayed a fake Time magazine cover at his golf clubs.

He has also repeatedly claimed to have been named Man of the Year in Michigan, another battleground state, though one in which he trails Biden by 7.6%.

A former Republican congressman recently told CNN Trump may have confused a dinner in 2013 at which he spoke, and was given various mementoes, with the bestowing of an official award.