President Donald Trump falsely claimed former President Obama and “other presidents” did not call the families of American soldiers killed in the line of duty. Obviously, the blatant lie drew swift backlash from Obama’s former aides.
The statement came during a news conference in the Rose Garden when a reported asked why Trump had not spoken publicly about the killing of four Green Berets in Niger during an Oct. 4 ambush.
The president said he had written the families letters and planned to call them in the coming week. He could have left it at that, but in typical Trump style, he could not help taking it a step further with a blatant falsehood.
Continuing the answer, the president added, “If you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls. A lot of them didn’t make calls. I like to call when it’s appropriate.”
Trump’s comment belied a long recorded history of President Obama meeting with families of fallen troops as well as letters and calls.
Members of the Obama administration remember the ex-president walking through Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery, where the tombs of soldiers who died fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan are kept. He also used to visit the wounded at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and often spent time with families of the fallen at the White House and around the country.
As part of their Christmas rituals, the Obamas had a “Gold Star” Christmas tree in the White House decorated with hundreds of photos and notes from people who lost their families in wars. Gold Star families were also invited as guests during the holidays.
David Axelrod, a senior adviser to Obama, said, “I don’t recall anything moving him more. He saw it as his duty to console them as best he could and thank them on behalf of the nation.”
Other members of Obama’s staff lashed out at Trump with unusual vitriol.
that's a fucking lie. to say president obama (or past presidents) didn't call the family members of soldiers KIA - he's a deranged animal.— Alyssa Mastromonaco (@AlyssaMastro44) October 16, 2017
Former deputy chief of staff Alyssa Mastromonaco used an expletive and described Trump as a “deranged animal.”
Obama’s official photographer Pete Souza also put a picture of Obama and his wife, Michelle, consoling the parents of a fallen soldier.
The President and First Lady console Paul and Janet, parents of Army Sgt. 1st Class Jared C. Monti, who had just been awarded posthumously with the Medal of Honor for his actions in Afghanistan. This was the first of 52 Medals of Honor, the nation’s highest award for military valor, that President Obama bestowed during his two terms. I also photographed him meeting with hundreds of wounded soldiers, and family members of those killed in action.
President George W. Bush was one of the most committed presidents when it came to writing to families of the fallen, calling them or meeting with them privately, despite the fact that during his tenure, in the Iraq war alone, U.S. combat deaths numbered in the 800s each year from 2004 to 2007.
However, the former president once said he felt the appropriate way to honor the families was to meet them in private.
Obama’s foreign policy adviser also took aim at Trump, calling to attention the president’s less-than-stellar behavior toward families of fallen troop.
This is an outrageous and disrespectful lie even by Trump standards. Also: Obama never attacked a Gold Star family. https://t.co/JgzTUIzWIa— Ben Rhodes (@brhodes) October 16, 2017
During his presidential campaign, Trump started a public feud with parents of Muslim-American soldier Humayun Khan, who was killed in Iraq in 2004, and belittled them after the soldier’s father, Khizr Khan, criticized him at the Democratic National Convention in 2016.
Trump visited Dover Air Force Base in February to receive the remains of U.S. Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens, who was killed during a raid in Yemen. The soldier’s grieving father refused to talk to Trump but the seaman’s widow, Carryn, attended Trump’s address to Congress.
After Trump was asked once again in the news conference about his claim that his predecessors never contacted bereaved military families, he changed his stance slightly.
“I don’t know if he did. I was told he didn’t often, and a lot of presidents don’t. They write letters. President Obama, I think, probably did sometimes and maybe sometimes he didn’t,” Trump said. “That’s what I was told. All I can do is ask my generals.”
Maybe in the future, Trump should ask his generals to take a look at some of the public records of presidents meeting with military families before he tries to besmirch them.
Banner/Thumbnail credit: Reuters, Lucy Nicholson