Trump falsely says Obama did not call families of dead soldiers

Gabby Kaufman
Reporter

In an attempt to defend his lack of public statements about four soldiers killed in Niger, President Trump falsely claimed that previous presidents did not call the families of dead soldiers — name-checking former President Barack Obama specifically as one of those who did not.

“I’ve written them personal letters,” Trump said at a press conference. “They’ve been sent or they’re going out tonight, but they were written during the weekend. I will at some point during the period of time call the parents and the families, ‘cause I have done that traditionally.”

“The traditional way, if you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls, a lot of them didn’t make calls,” he added.

Four United States Army Special Forces soldiers were killed and two more were injured in an ambush by Islamic extremists earlier this month. Trump’s comments notwithstanding, Obama did call the families of fallen soldiers.

Trump was later pressed on the false claim, but he declined to retract it.

“I don’t know if he did,” Trump said of Obama in particular. “No, no no. I was told that he didn’t often and a lot of presidents don’t, they write letters.”

“I do a combination of both,” he continued, referencing both writing letters and calling. “Sometimes it’s a very difficult thing to do, but I do a combination of both. President Obama, I think probably did sometimes and maybe sometimes he didn’t, I don’t know, that’s what I was told.”

“All I can do, all I can do is ask my generals. Other presidents did not call, they’d write letters. And some presidents didn’t do anything. But I like the combination, I like — when I can — the combination of a call and also a letter.”

A former Obama White House official rejected Trump’s claim in a statement, saying, “President Trump’s claim is wrong. President Obama engaged families of the fallen and wounded warriors throughout his presidency through calls, letters, visits to Section 60 at Arlington, visits to Walter Reed, visits to Dover, and regular meetings with Gold Star Families at the White House and across the country.”

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders was asked on Oct. 6 why Trump had yet to make any statements about the U.S. troops slain in Niger.

“I made a statement on behalf of the administration yesterday in the opening,” she said, according to a White House transcript. “Obviously, anytime one of the members of our great military are injured, wounded, or killed in action, that is certainly something that we take very seriously. Our thoughts and prayers are with those individuals.”

On Monday, former Obama aides Alyssa Mastromonaco and Dan Pfeiffer responded on to Trump’s claim, calling him a “deranged animal” and “a deeply disturbed ignoramus who is a pathological liar,” respectively. Another former Obama staffer, Ben Rhodes, also condemned the “outrageous and disrespectful lie.”