Donald Trump has been called out for making false claims about his predecessors in the White House.
The US President was asked why he hadn’t publicly spoken about four American soldiers killed in an ambush in Niger two weeks ago and, after asserting that he had written to their families, he falsely accused predecessor Barack Obama and other former presidents of failing to do the same.
“If you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls,” Trump said during a news conference in the Rose Garden. “A lot of them didn’t make calls. I like to call when it’s appropriate.”
The statement brought a swift response from former members of the Obama administration, but also the sister of a soldier killed in the Iraq War.
Delilia O’Malley said President George W Bush “held me as I sobbed”, in a tweet which gained more than 100,000 retweets following Trump’s comments.
— Delilia O'Malley (@DeliliaOMalley) October 16, 2017
Between 2004 and 2007, more than 800 soldiers died each year because of the Iraq War, and Bush is said to have been committed to writing to the families of all of them.
Freddy Ford, Bush’s former spokesman, said that, even with America waging two wars, Bush “wrote (to) all the families of the fallen”, while also calling or meeting “hundreds, if not thousands” of bereaved family members.
Obama’s former employees, meanwhile, also had a lot to say – with one providing photographic evidence of an encounter between the former president and relatives of those killed in action.
Pete Souza, a former White House photographer, did not directly address Trump, but has been known to use his extensive catalogue of images from Obama’s eight years in office to throw shade in the current president’s direction.
Alyssa Mastromanca, another former Obama aide, received more than 20,000 retweets after calling Trump a “deranged animal” – while the 18th chairman of the joint chiefs of staff also shared his thoughts.
General Martin Dempsey said Obama and George W Bush “cared deeply” about soldiers killed in action.
POTUS 43 & 44 and first ladies cared deeply, worked tirelessly for the serving, the fallen, and their families. Not politics. Sacred Trust.
— GEN(R) Marty Dempsey (@Martin_Dempsey) October 17, 2017
Trump admitted it was possible that Obama “did sometimes” make calls, but said he was told he “didn’t often, and a lot of presidents don’t”.
He said: “President Obama, I think, probably did sometimes, and maybe sometimes he didn’t. I don’t know. That’s what I was told.”
He added: “Some presidents didn’t do anything.”
One of Obama’s “rituals” was a “Gold Star” Christmas tree in the White House decorated with hundreds of photos and notes from people who had lost loved ones in the Afghanistan war.
Obama deployed 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, and there were 1,700 deaths in the country during his time in office. Gold Star families visited during the holidays, bringing ornaments for the tree.
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
Pressed about the four soldiers killed in Niger two weeks ago, Trump said: “I actually wrote letters individually to the soldiers we’re talking about, and they’re going to be going out either today or tomorrow.”
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said later that Trump “wasn’t criticising predecessors, but stating a fact”.
She argued that presidents didn’t always call families of those killed in battle: “Sometimes they call, sometimes they send a letter, other times they have the opportunity to meet family members in person.”