President Trump is struggling to defend himself after an explosive report alleged he had belittled U.S. soldiers who died during wars as “losers.”
The Atlantic published a scathing article Thursday evening quoting the current commander in chief disparaging veterans who died in wars, citing several sources with knowledge of Trump’s statements.
In one account from the report, a trip to an American cemetery in France to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I was canceled — not due to the inability of a helicopter to fly to the event in rain, as was the original excuse given, but rather because Trump didn’t want to mess up his hair simply to honor those who had died.
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“Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s full of losers,” Trump reportedly said.
In separate comments on the same trip, Trump allegedly described U.S. Marines who died in an important battle as “suckers.” He also had difficulty understanding basic history about the war, asking aides who “the good guys” were, and asking why the U.S. sided with the Allied powers.
Trump sent a series of tweets Friday morning attempting to discredit the report as “fake news.” However, a number of comments Trump has made both during his time in office and before he became president give reason to be skeptical of his characterization of the article.
The Atlantic also described Trump’s tactless interactions with his former chief of staff John Kelly, a veteran himself whose son died in Afghanistan. During a ceremony for Kelly’s son and others who were killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, Trump reportedly turned to Kelly and said, “I don’t get it. What was in it for them?”
The article also mentioned Trump’s public feud with former Sen. John McCain, who passed away in 2018. Trump was flippant and outraged over the honors being given to the late statesman when he died, the report said.
“We’re not going to support that loser’s funeral,” Trump allegedly said at the time.
He also was outraged that U.S. flags were lowered for McCain. “What the fuck are we doing that for? Guy was a fucking loser,” Trump said.
The White House disputed the contents of The Atlantic’s report. “This report is false. President Trump holds the military in the highest regard,” White House spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said.
Trump also tweeted that, despite their differences, he was happy to honor McCain.
“I never called John a loser,” Trump wrote. “I swear on whatever, or whoever, I was asked to swear on, that I never called our great fallen soldiers anything other than HEROES. This is more made up Fake News given by disgusting & jealous failures in a disgraceful attempt to influence the 2020 Election!”
Trump also said that he had to approve McCain’s funeral, repeating a claim he made in March 2019. However, the Washington National Cathedral, where McCain’s funeral was conducted, never needs approval for services it holds, including for funerals of former lawmakers.
“All funerals and memorial services at the Cathedral are organized by the family of the deceased; only a state funeral for a former president involves consultation with government officials,” Kevin Eckstrom, chief communications officer for the National Cathedral, said at the time.
Miles Taylor, who previously served as chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security under Trump, also contradicted the president’s assertions.
“Mr. President, this is not true,” Taylor wrote in a tweet of his own. “You were angry that DHS notified federal buildings to lower the flags for Sen. McCain. I would know because your staff called and told me.”
Trump’s insistence that he never disparaged McCain, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, is also false. In 2015, while campaigning for president, Trump suggested that McCain was not worthy of recognition, extending his complaints toward POWs in general for having been imprisoned.
“I like people who weren’t captured,” Trump said in an interview.
In that same year, Trump also shared an article from his Twitter account that called McCain a “loser.”
Several other instances of Trump’s easy-to-debunk lies in the wake of The Atlantic’s reporting on his statements about veterans — which have since been corroborated by reporters from The Associated Press and The Washington Post as well — provide ample reasons to be skeptical of his assertions that the article is “fake news.”
Following the assassination of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani in January, Iran retaliated with missile attacks toward U.S. bases in the Middle East. Trump downplayed the injuries soldiers suffered there, as dozens of troops had received serious traumatic brain injuries that he brushed off as being “headaches.”
Trump has also claimed to have raised millions of dollars for charities to veterans’ groups, but oftentimes those claims have been exaggerations or complete lies, as some organizations have reported funds promised to them were never received until the media reported on him not giving.
VoteVets, a progressive organization representing veterans and their family members, released a statement in response to The Atlantic’s report on Trump’s comments, saying it was “not surprising” to read about what he had said.
Trump “has abused our military, has made our country less safe, and has put our men and women in uniform in harm’s way for his own political gain,” their statement read.