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United States President Donald Trump on Sunday strongly refuted the claims made in a media report that he had disparaged fallen troops.
His rebuttal came after The Atlantic magazine published an article on Thursday, September 3, which accused him of insulting American war heroes, calling them “losers” and “suckers.”
Citing several anonymous sources, the article alleged that Trump had declined to visit an American cemetery near Paris during his 2018 trip to France because he did not want his hair to get disheveled on a rainy day. It also claimed that Trump had refused to support the funeral for Senator John McCain, a Vietnam War veteran.
Defending his respect for the US military, President Trump said, “And think that I would make statements negative to our military and our fallen heroes when nobody’s done what I’ve done with the budgets, with the military budgets, with getting pay raises to the military and it’s a disgraceful situation.”
Boasting about the support for his “Make America Great Again” slogan and taking a dig at the Democrats and the media, Trump tweeted, “They will say anything, like their recent lies about me and the Military, and hope that it sticks… But #MAGA gets it!”
Trump loyalists rallied around the president, vouching for his reverence for the armed forces.
On a CNN debate last week, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper stated that he had never heard President Trump denigrate the US military or veterans. Esper’s words were echoed by US Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie.
”The president has always been 100% supportive of the military,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters at the White House.
Trump lashed out at Fox News reporter Jennifer Griffin after she reported having confirmed, through her sources, the crucial details of The Atlantic’s article.
“All refuted by many witnesses. Jennifer Griffin should be fired for this kind of reporting. Never even called us for comment. @FoxNews is gone!” Trump tweeted.
A look at some sensational claims made in The Atlantic’s report
The article, authored by Jeffrey Goldberg, editor-in-chief of The Atlantic, created ripples across the US. According to the startling claims made by Goldberg, President Trump, during his France visit in 2018, had refused to honor the American war-dead buried in the Aisne-Marne cemetery near Paris saying, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.”
The report further mentioned that Trump had called more than 1,800 martyred Marines at Belleau Wood, a significant battle in American history, “suckers” for losing their lives. America and its allies had halted the advance of the German forces into Paris in the spring of 1918 and the ground on which the battle was fought is considered sacred by the US Army. But, as per the article, Trump did not understand why the US had to intervene on the side of the Allies and who the “good guys” were in the war.
Another stunning allegation made in the report was that after McCain died in August 2018, Trump told his staff, “We’re not going to support that loser’s funeral” and, as per witnesses, he got furious on seeing flags lowered to half-staff.
Condemnation from all sides Democrats and Republicans alike
Trump’s adversaries quickly seized the opportunity and lambasted the president for his alleged remarks.
Former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, a Republican, condemned Trump’s comments. He described them as “despicable” and said “it will resonate” with the military. Hagel maintained that it was likely that the Atlantic report was “credible” because Trump had a history of belittling military personnel, as he had previously done with late Senator John McCain and former Defense Secretary James Mattis.
A video released September 5 by The Lincoln Project, a popular Republican-backed political action committee opposing Trump’s reelection, referred to him as a “draft-dodger in chief who despises the men and women he supposedly leads and insults their deaths and injuries with his contempt.”
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden called Trump’s remarks about slain US soldiers “a disgrace" if The Atlantic’s report was authentic.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed disappointment over Trump’s alleged comments on the military saying, “It breaks your heart.”
The Atlantic’s report also invited strong reactions from voices representing the armed forces. On September 6, NBC News published an op-ed by retired US Army Colonel Jeff McCausland who wrote that Trump was guilty of displaying over the years “a clear pattern of disrespect toward the military.”
The effect of The Atlantic’s claims on the presidential election
The controversy has allowed the Biden campaign to emphasize the former vice president’s commitment to the US Army with the help of an ad targeting locations in states having a sizable population of military personnel.
The Trump campaign, meanwhile, was in damage-control mode. Tim Murtaugh, a Trump campaign spokesman, said, “The President has shown his reverence for American service members by both his words and deeds. There are ample examples of his compassion for the families of fallen heroes and of his dedication to ensuring that veterans receive the medical care they deserve.”
Trump recently declared that he would block the Pentagon’s proposed plan to cut the military health care budget by US$2.2 billion. He also announced that he would increase overall military spending and bring troops back from conflict zones in Syria and Afghanistan.
In the run-up to the November 3 presidential election, Trump has reiterated his support for the US military and their families. The armed forces form a key Republican constituency, which played a vital role in Trump’s victory in 2016.
However, the allegations made against Trump in The Atlantic’s report have come at the worst possible time for him and, according to some political experts, could lead to diminishing faith in him among military personnel.
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