Last week, during a press conference in Rose Garden, President Donald Trump was asked why he had remained silent about the deaths of U.S. service members killed in Niger on October 4.
Responding defensively, the commander-in-chief wrongfully suggested former U.S. presidents had not made phone calls to the families of service members killed in the line of duty either. The next day, Trump followed up that claim in a radio interview to Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade, saying he had called the immediate families of “virtually” all fallen soldiers.
The president may have said this in the heat of the moment, but it fell upon the embattled White House staff to make his claims come true.
As it turns out, multiple families of slain service members are only now receiving rush-shipped condolence letters from POTUS.
The Atlantic spoke to three Gold Star families, who said they received condolences from Trump days after the controversy began.
Timothy Eckles Sr. said he received a letter from POTUS on Oct. 20. It was postmarked Oct. 18. Eckles Sr. said previously the family believed an ongoing investigation into their son’s death meant the letter would be arriving late. Although late, he said the letter was still thoughtful and made mention of Eckles Jr.’s siblings.
The families of Corey Ingram and John M. Hoagland III also received such letters.
Along with mailed condolences, Trump also sent a $25,000 check to a grieving family — nearly four months after he made the promise and a day after media slammed him for not sending the money.
Two families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan on Aug. 2 were also told to expect calls, but never received any. Following Trump’s statements, news outlets started an enquiry into the number of calls made.
The Washington Post reported only half of the 13 service members killed since Trump took office had received calls from the Oval Office. The Associated Press also talked to the families “of all 43 people who have died in military service since Trump became president,” but only “made contact with about half of the families.”
According to Roll Call, by 5 p.m. on Oct. 17, the White House had asked for and received information from the Pentagon communicating that “senior White House aides were aware on the day the president made the statement that it was not accurate — but that they should try to make it accurate as soon as possible, given the gathering controversy.”
Thumbnail/Banner: Reuters, Joe Skipper