On Wednesday, four U.S. soldiers were killed during a deadly ambush in Niger. After a long period of silence, Trump finally commented on the deaths of the soldiers on Monday. The ambush was the deadliest combat operation of Trump's term, and he faced heat for not addressing it sooner. Trump told reporters he had written letters over the weekend that were probably sent already.
Trump then made this egregious claim about calling the families of the victims:
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. I like to call when it’s appropriate, when I think I’m able to do it. They have made the ultimate sacrifice, so generally I would say that I like to call. I’m going to be calling them. I want a little time to pass.
Ample evidence quickly debunked Trump's claim. A spokesperson for former President Obama told HuffPost:
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.
Former Obama aides also called out Trump:
Trump backpedaled when trying to clarify his comments later in the press conference:
I don’t know if he did. I was told that he didn’t often. And a lot of presidents don’t. President Obama, I think, probably did sometimes. Maybe sometimes he didn’t. I don’t know. That’s what I was told. All I can do is ask my generals. Other presidents did not call. They’d write letters. Some presidents didn’t do anything. But I like the combination. When I can, I like the combination of a call and also a letter.
In the past, Trump took part in conspiracy theories that claimed President Obama wasn't reaching out to families of fallen soldiers, in some cases mocking the former President for being "too busy playing golf" to do his duty.
President Trump was, ironically, playing golf the day the soldiers' bodies were returned to the Dover Air Force Base:
Some believe Trump's accusation was meant as a distraction:
However, true to his word (in this case, at least), Trump did call the families of the fallen soldiers. Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who was in the car with Army Sgt. La David Johnson's widow, traveling to receive his body when the President called, recounted:
He said, "But you know he must've known what he signed up for."
And later, when the call was over, Wilson recalled Johnson's widow saying:
[Trump] didn't even remember his name.
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