Trump's Despicable Gold Star Lies

[ Posted Wednesday, October 18th, 2017 – 17:16 UTC ]

President Donald Trump, once again, has been caught in numerous despicable lies, this time both to and about Gold Star families. This continues a pattern for Trump, of disrespecting other people's military service when they are not whole-hearted supporters of Donald Trump. But over the past 48 hours or so, Trump has hit new lows in this regard. And yet he still has the gall to denounce professional football players for "not respecting the flag."

Previously, Trump disrespected John McCain, who spent over five years as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese, saying Trump only liked soldiers who didn't get captured. Astonishingly, he paid no political price for this outrageous snub. Later in the campaign, Trump got into a battle of words with a Gold Star family who spoke out at the National Democratic Convention. Again, Trump paid little political price for this unseemly spat. Earlier this year, Trump reacted to the news that a U.S. Navy vessel had been in a collision that resulted in sailors' deaths by saying: "That's too bad." Again, Trump paid little political price for this callous reaction.

On Monday, Trump held an impromptu press conference, and he was asked why he had not even mentioned the fact that four U.S. soldiers had been killed in Niger twelve days earlier. Not only had Trump failed to utter one word about these deaths, but when the body of one of the soldiers who died in action was returned to the United States, Trump was out on the golf course with Lindsey Graham.

Trump responded to the question by attacking not just Barack Obama, but by smearing all previous presidents for not contacting Gold Star families. Trump apparently just made this up off the top of his head, as he is wont to do. When challenged, later in the same press conference, Trump added a few qualifications, but then doubled down on the issue the next day using his chief of staff's son as an example. Trump charged that Barack Obama didn't call John Kelly after his son died in combat. Trump also stated that he has called relatives of all soldiers who have died in the line of duty during his presidency.

Trump was trying to give the impression that he does more than all previous presidents when it comes to consoling Gold Star families and supporting the military. This, obviously, is false, since (at best) he might hope to live up to previous presidential commitments to the military. The most obvious example might be found at the Franklin D. Roosevelt library's web page, where it lists what F.D.R.'s sons were doing during World War II, while their father was president:

Elliott was an Army Air Corps reconnaissance pilot in the North Atlantic and Europe. He eventually achieved the rank of brigadier general. Franklin Jr. and John both entered the U.S. Navy. John rose to the rank of lieutenant commander. Franklin Jr. became a full commander and was awarded a Purple Heart and Silver Star. James chose combat duty with the Marines and received the Navy Cross and the Silver Star.

Donald Trump avoided the military draft during Vietnam because he had "bone spurs" in his heel. No other member of his family has ever served, either. But let's get back to Trump's performance this week.

After the initial shock, the media started digging. Members of the Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton administrations all immediately and forcefully challenged Trump's false claims. Some flat-out called Trump a liar.

Then Representative Frederica Wilson claimed that Donald Trump disrespected one of her constituents when he did call a Gold Star family. She was listening in to the conversation on a speakerphone when it happened. Later, the dead soldier's family confirmed Wilson's version of the call. Of course, Trump lashed out at Wilson in response:

But in a Twitter post Wednesday, Trump claimed Wilson "totally fabricated" her account of his call to the widow. Trump went on to back up his assertion by insisting he has "proof."

"Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!" Trump wrote.

Wilson stood her ground. Speaking on an MSNBC, she called Trump's call "horrible" and "insensitive."

"She [the Gold Star wife] was in tears. She was in tears. And she said, 'He didn't even remember his name,'" said Wilson.

"I have proof"? Is he taping his White House calls? Nobody yet seems to know what "proof" Trump was talking about.

Since there have been fewer than two dozen such deaths since Trump took office, the Washington Post attempted to contact each Gold Star family, to see whether Trump had reached out to them or not. They found five families who had not received a call from Trump, and the Associated Press added one other Gold Star family to this list. One Gold Star father responded angrily to hearing Trump make the claim that he had "called every family of somebody that’s died":

[Euvince] Brooks said that after watching the news on Tuesday night he wanted to set up a Twitter account to try to get the president's attention.

"I said to my daughter, 'Can you teach me to tweet, so I can tweet at the president and tell him he's a liar?'" he said. "You know when you hear people lying, and you want to fight? That's the way I feel last night. He's a damn liar."

But that wasn't even the strangest story the Post uncovered. Donald Trump apparently promised a personal check to a Gold Star father, and then didn't send it until the story broke today, four months later:

President Trump, in a personal phone call to a grieving military father, offered him $25,000 and said he would direct his staff to establish an online fundraiser for the family, but neither happened, the father said.

Chris Baldridge, the father of Army Sgt. Dillon Baldridge, said that Trump called him at his home in Zebulon, N.C., a few weeks after his 22-year-old son and two fellow soldiers were gunned down by an Afghan police officer on June 10. Their phone conversation lasted about 15 minutes, Baldridge said, and centered for a time on the father's struggle with the manner in which his son was killed -- shot by someone he was training.

"I said, 'Me and my wife would rather our son died in trench warfare,'" Baldridge said. "I feel like he got murdered over there."

. . .

In his call with Trump, Baldridge, a construction worker, expressed frustration with the military's survivor benefits program. Because his ex-wife was listed as their son's beneficiary, she was expected to receive the Pentagon's $100,000 death gratuity -- even though "I can barely rub two nickels together," he told Trump.

The president's response shocked him.

"He said, 'I'm going to write you a check out of my personal account for $25,000,' and I was just floored," Baldridge said. "I could not believe he was saying that, and I wish I had it recorded because the man did say this. He said, 'No other president has ever done something like this,' but he said, 'I'm going to do it.'"

But then the check never actually arrived. Baldridge did get a condolence letter from Trump:

"I opened it up and read it, and I was hoping to see a check in there, to be honest," the father said. "I know it was kind of far-fetched thinking. But I was like, 'Damn, no check.' Just a letter saying 'I'm sorry.'"

Got that? Baldridge talked to the president in June. It is now the latter part of October. In all that time, Trump never wrote the check he had promised. This is part of a long pattern of Trump making sweeping promises of donations to charity, but then failing to follow through on them (uncovering this story actually won David Fahrenthold last year's Pulitzer Prize, in fact).

Today, in reaction to the story, Trump apparently quickly (and belatedly) signed a check and sent it out. Then he had his White House press office attack the media for the story's existence:

But in a statement Wednesday afternoon, White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said: "The check has been sent. It's disgusting that the media is taking something that should be recognized as a generous and sincere gesture, made privately by the President, and using it to advance the media's biased agenda."

You know what's disgusting? Promising a poor Gold Star father $25,000 and then stiffing him for four months, until the media finds out about it. That is what is disgusting here. The media might have "recognized... a generous and sincere gesture, made privately by the president" if he had actually followed through and made the damn gesture, in other words. Talk is cheap.

So, to review what has been uncovered in the past 48 hours, ever since the media reminded Trump of a very important part of his job: Donald Trump lied about past presidents' behavior, particularly Barack Obama's. Trump has no explanation of why it took him almost two weeks to even mention the deaths of four U.S. soldiers, and then only when directly asked about it. Playing golf is more important than going to Dover Air Force Base to respectfully welcome the bodies of soldiers killed in action back to American soil. Trump made a Gold Star mother cry with his callousness (saying her son "knew what he was signing up for, but I guess it hurts anyway") in a call a member of Congress said was "horrible" and "insensitive." Trump lied when he said he had called "every family of someone that's died." One Gold Star father reacted to hearing Trump claim this by calling Trump "a damn liar." Trump promised one Gold Star father both an online fundraiser and $25,000 from his own pocket -- neither of which happened. Trump was finally shamed into a claim that "the check was in the mail" only after this story broke in the media. The White House then astonishingly tried to blame the four-month delay between the promise and the check being signed on the media, calling them "disgusting."

But what is actually disgusting -- and despicable, to boot -- is pretty much all the lies Donald Trump has told this week on the subject of contacts with Gold Star families. Lie after lie after lie. Just imagine the fury a Democratic president would have faced for even one of these despicable lies. So far, I haven't heard a single prominent Republican denounce Trump for any of this. That may change, as these stories seem to still be breaking. Going after a Gold Star family who is publicly supporting your political opponent is one thing, but lying about how you're the best president ever on Gold Star family outreach and consoling is just downright despicable. And a damn lie.

-- Chris Weigant


Cross-posted at The Huffington Post

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


21 Comments on “Trump's Despicable Gold Star Lies”

  1. [1] 
    Paula wrote:

    We Pubbies don't have time to denounce Blotus's lies about fallen soldiers, what with all the work we're doing to get our tax cuts for the 1% pulled together. There's only so many hours in the day, and if Blotus goes down, why, those tax cuts could be futher delayed! Plus we've got hearings with Jeff Sessions and all -- trying to stonewall the Russian interference investigations is exhausting! Four soldiers killed in Niger? Three of them Black? Waaaaay down on the priority list. Not even worth the trouble of an investigation a la Benghazi -- no political benefit and will probably make the administration look bad (worse). Anyway, we're so busy dodging questions about Puerto Rico and trying to assemble not-entirely-laughable talking points; this little dust-up needs to get in line! We can only avoid/dodge/lie about one lie/disaster/scandal per day and we're weeks behind! Leave us alone!

  2. [2] 
    rjrap wrote:

    “One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We are no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozled has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”

    - Carl Sagan (February 1, 1987)

  3. [3] 
    Kick wrote:

    CW: You know what's disgusting? Promising a poor Gold Star father $25,000 and then stiffing him for four months, until the media finds out about it.

    Oops. A Gold Star father out there had the audacity to alert the "fake news" about the fake bullshit President Con Trump told him in order to "win the moment" and thereby forced Con to write a check in order to keep from appearing to be the pathological BLOTUS that he quite obviously is regardless.

    Oh, PT... before you put up your check book, remember that time a couple weeks ago when you declared to some American citizens suffering in the wake of destruction caused by Hurricane Maria: "We're going to work something out. We have to look at their whole debt structure. They owe a lot of money to your friends on Wall Street, and we're going to have to wipe that out. You can say goodbye to that. I don't know if it's Goldman Sachs, but whoever it is, you can wave goodbye to that."

    Although quite a few more zeroes, it's the Con's natural inclination to allow his mouth to write checks he has no intention of keeping. He simply plays to win the moment on a day-to-day basis and then moves on to the next telephone/microphone allowing his mouth to spew bullshit wherever he goes.

    Is there anyone out there with two brain cells to rub together who honestly believes that this lying sack of spit is their "voice" and going to look out for the poor and middle class? Anybody?

  4. [4] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Maddow pointed out tonight that Trump started the whole 'gold star' controversy after being asked about the four Green Berets killed in Niger, and why he won't say anything about the incident, and hasn't for the last two weeks. He responded with this wild accusation about Obama and Bush.

    So, about two weeks ago, a group that included Green Berets and apparently some intelligence sorts (CIA or military intelligence) were coming out of a meeting with local leaders when they were ambushed as the left the meeting. A firefight broke out which lasted at least 30 minutes before low-flying (strafing?)French Mirage jets dispersed the attackers enough to allow evacuation.

    Stories differ on who brought them out - US officials first told CNN that they were evacuated under fire by French military Super Puma helicopters, but that was later changed, or added to, those of a private contractor, Berry Aviation, which was reported to have done the evacuation, though contractors are only allowed to carry handguns.

    Either way, when they counted heads there was a missing soldier, whose body was eventually found two days later, miles away from the site of the ambush.

    That Green Beret, Sgt. La David T. Johnson, being the same soldier whose wife claims to have been insulted by the president during a phone call she received on the way to retrieve his body from the airport. Trump reportedly repeatedly said during the call, "But you know he must’ve known what he signed up for." They were not solaced, and felt somewhat insulted by that statement.

    Trump, for his part, disputes accounts of the family and their Congresswoman Frederica Wilson,
    tweeting, "Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!"

    Asked what the 'proof' was that he tweeted about, Trump dared Wilson to repeat her claim: "Let her make her statement again and then you'll find out" (and he looked like this as he said it, I swear).

    But the best response to Trump's was from Johnson's widow, Myeshia, who told an interviewer, "If he was taping the conversation, bring it on!" I'm sure James Comey smiled when he heard that.

    So all this leads to some uncomfortable questions:

    What colossal fuck up resulted in this catastrophe? Isn't "being ambushed while meeting with local leaders" in the first chapter of the book AFRICAN DIPLOMACY FOR DUMMIES? This was an area near Niger's border with Mali, according to the L.A. Times,"notorious for drug smuggling, human trafficking and myriad extremist militias, including allies of Al Qaeda and Islamic State", yet one official of US Africa Command told CNN that the military's intelligence said it was "unlikely" that the team would run into enemy forces.

    Someone's got some 'splainin' to do.

    And here's the REALLY tough question: assuming that Sgt. Johnson's body didn't get to "a remote area" of the country by itself, what happened? Was he carried away alive during the firefight? Was he left behind? Did he get separated from the main group and captured? Or was his dead body dragged away for some other reason? An autopsy would answer some of those questions.

    Reportedly, the military ordered a closed casket, and the widow was left wondering just how badly he'd been disfigured before death. Torture would show up on an autopsy too.

    So is the Trump administration trying to sweep this gigantic fuckup under the rug? Do they not want to admit that an American, depending for his life on an under-armed private contractor, might have been inadvertently left behind, only to be captured and tortured to death?

    No, President Trump, I don't think that's "what he signed up for".

  5. [5] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    What? Crickets all day? Didn't expect that.

  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    What did you expect?

  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Maybe I'm not the only one who is done with all things Trump.

    Instead, I am patiently awaiting the special counsel's decision ...

  8. [8] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:


    Do think with what Kelly just came out with, he is taking the fall or just as insensitive as Trump? What's appropriate to say to a fellow high rank military member in this situation is completely different than what you would say to the civilian mother of the fallen soldier...

  9. [9] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Do they not want to admit that an American, depending for his life on an under-armed private contractor, might have been inadvertently left behind, only to be captured and tortured to death?

    Where on earth are you getting that from!?

  10. [10] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    Gen. Kelly blasted Rep. Frederica Wilson for “politicizing” Trump’s call to the wife of a fallen soldier while failing to instruct Trump to fix the damage he had caused them with his insensitive comments! Rep. Wilson was rightly outraged having witnessed how horribly Trump handled the situation — causing only more grief and pain to those already suffering. If Kelley wants to punish anyone for politicizing this whole affair, he need look no further than his boss’ office!

    Kelley did a good job, however, in explaining what Trump was trying to express to the families of the fallen soldiers:

    I said to him, “Sir, there’s nothing you can do to lighten the burden on these families. Let me tell you what I tell them, let me tell you what my best friend Joe Dunford told me, because he was my casualty officer, he said, ‘Kel, he was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew what he was getting into by joining that 1 percent. He knew what the possibilities were. Because we’re at war. And when he died’—in the four cases we’re talking about Niger and my son’s case in Afghanistan—‘when he died he was surrounded by the best men on this earth, his friends.’ That’s what the president tried to say to four families the other day.”

    Sadly, Trump isn’t physically capable of showing sympathy in ways that are recognizable to most people. It’s a foreign emotion to sociopaths, and Trump is definitely a sociopath!

  11. [11] 
    Kick wrote:

    Balthy 5
    Bashi 9

    What colossal fuck up resulted in this catastrophe?

    You guys are exactly right about this entire incident. I've heard little regarding the incident except the same explanations as Balthy and not much else. We know this incident is definitely a FUBAR since the silence surrounding it is deafening. So a reporter asks a simple question about the silence surrounding the incident, and Trump handles it the same way he handles everything else... he goes into defensive mode and criticizes previous president(s).

    Trump is mentally and intellectually equipped for no other response and isn't prepared nor capable of handling the job for which he's been elected. He has no empathy and no soul. He is a sociopath who doesn't give a rip about anyone not named Trump. Those who don't care and can't fake sincerity should never pick up a phone and speak to a Gold Star widow. Period. Kelly advised against it, but Trump did it anyway because he's a narcissist who thinks he's a great speaker and now with dementia setting in over the lifelong NPD issue.

    Do think with what Kelly just came out with, he is taking the fall or just as insensitive as Trump?

    Kelly is a great man who is part of the glue holding the thing together. He's in the White House in service to his country, and I think he feels responsible because he answered the questions Trump asked him about whether or not Obama phoned him and what was said to him on the death of his son. Trump takes it all in and tries to phone a Gold Star widow armed with what Kelly has told him and no empathy, no soul, and no intellect.

    What's appropriate to say to a fellow high rank military member in this situation is completely different than what you would say to the civilian mother of the fallen soldier.

    Exactly. As if on cue, he repeated to the Gold Star widow what Kelly's son's military "family" said to another member of their "family." Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Of course Trump lied when he said he didn't say it, and Kelly feels responsible for Trump's ignorance when he shouldn't. The congresswoman was telling the truth while Trump lied. If the widow allowed the congresswoman to listen in, that is really no one's business. The widow wants answers to WTH is going on, and she'd naturally phone her Congressperson to represent her in Washington. Something went FUBAR, and she wants answers. Who wouldn't?

    And Kelly laments that civility is gone? Boo effing hoo. Exactly who does he think is largely responsible for that state of events?

  12. [12] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    rjrap [2] -

    Welcome to the site!

    Your first comment was held for moderation, but from now on you should be able to post comments and see them instantly. Just don't post more than one link per comment, as multilink comments are automatically held for moderation.

    Also, nice Sagan quote!



  13. [13] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    What a lovely first comment.

  14. [14] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Liz: [10] Where on earth are you getting that from!?

    Mostly, this article, and an LA Times article, after a lot of reading up on it elsewhere.

    The information in that article has been updated since I used it as a source for my comment. Since then, Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie spoke to reporters and emphasized that Johnson was not 'left behind', saying that US, French and Nigerien forces "never left the battlefield" until Johnson was found. Glad to get that cleared up, sort of, for now.

    But questions remain about how Johnson got separated from the group in the first place, and what happened to him afterward. Questions about the logistics and planning for the mission are sure to be raised.

    But the biggest question is, why has Trump been dodging this? I think because he, or someone near him, was afraid of it, of its echoes of Benghazi.

    Cowardice, perchance.

    The French role in this episode sounds exemplary so far, and I sincerely hope that these guys had Super Puma helicopters and Mirage jets backing them up, rather than private contractors with sidearms.

  15. [15] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Well, Balthasar, it was the "captured and tortured to death" part of your comment that I was questioning because I certainly haven't heard anything like that from the news sources I follow.

  16. [16] 
    Kick wrote:


    I know, right! The Gold Star widow is looking for answers so naturally is in consultation with her representative in Congress. It's fairly obvious that she thought they might learn something from the president's call but got Gobsmacked by his comments to the widow.

    The entire incident is FUBAR; the call to the family is FUBAR, and his widow deserves answers regarding her husband. The American people deserve answers regarding the incident, and the silence is deafening... with a disease addled moron in charge of our country whose primary objective is the search for money and praise.

    I am sick to death of listening to this needy moron asking someone to tell him what a great job he's doing and hearing him trash prior president(s) because he actually seems to believe that it makes him look better. His neediness for attention/praise and the constant pathological lying is pathetic.

    Trump is ill equipped for the job he holds. Time for the GOP turning a blind eye to all this to turn to the 25th Amendment... use the "Escape Hatch" before any more Americans have to suffer because the Moron-In-Chief did/said/tweeted something that causes harm. Seriously. How many people have to suffer losses so the rich can get a tax cut at the expense of poor and middle class?

  17. [17] 
    Kick wrote:


    Yes... totally. The clock is ticking down.

  18. [18] 
    Paula wrote:

    Kick: I know, right! The Gold Star widow is looking for answers so naturally is in consultation with her representative in Congress. It's fairly obvious that she thought they might learn something from the president's call but got Gobsmacked by his comments to the widow.

    Apparently the Congresswoman actually knew the dead soldier from his youth - he was a member of a program she created for struggling kids - she mentored him and spoke with him often. This was personal for her, not just professional. She wasn't there looking for a gotcha; it was apparently just coincidence that she was there at all when Trump's call came through.

    Balthasar [6]: Wow.

  19. [19] 
    Kick wrote:


    Apparently the Congresswoman actually knew the dead soldier from his youth - he was a member of a program she created for struggling kids - she mentored him and spoke with him often. This was personal for her, not just professional.

    I learned this after I posted my comment. So this was personal for her also, one of her constituents and someone she cared for and mentored. The whole incident is FUBAR, far too much silence, and I suspect Balthy is correct that they're afraid this is their "Benghazi."

    Of course, General Kelly was out of line calling Congresswoman Wilson "that empty a barrel." It was sickening to watch Kelly channel Trump when speaking about her while he used the word "brave" to describe Trump's pathetic attempt at speaking with her constituents' Gold Star widow. Perhaps Kelly has simply spent too much time around Trump, the praise-seeking needy moron who thinks it makes him look better when he tears down his opposition with a personal attack using insults and derogatory terms. Excuse me, General, but I hardly think it's "brave" to pick up a damn phone when the SOB got 5 deferments so he wouldn't have to pick up a rifle, but then Trump wouldn't know bravery and sacrifice if it latched onto his face like the orange and refused to let go. Then too, it's a sad state of affairs that Kelly is used in this manner because Trump is too much of a coward to face the shit storms he routinely creates with his endless BS.

    I applaud Kelly for the majority of his speech at the podium regarding this issue, but the insulting of Congresswoman Wilson who told the truth then turning around and praising the Pathological Lying Admitted Sexual Predator-in-Chief as being "brave" for making a phone call is about the dumbest thing I have heard from that podium... with the exception of Spicer's "even Hitler didn't use gas" utter nonsensical comment. I believe an apology is in order for that one from Kelly; even Spicer was smart enough to do that about the "Holocaust centers."

    Kelly better get out while he can... apparently hanging around the Misogynist-in-Chief is contagious.

  20. [20] 
    Paula wrote:

    It's looking like Kelly went out and literally DID a Trump -- he went out to explain something then just lied in order to smear someone else and thereby deflect blame and create animus against a Trump critic.

    Was he bad before Trump? (Probably, to an extent.) Did association with Trump make him worse? It seems to damage everyone else, so probably.

    I don't think Kelly is helping anything by being there -- he's just enabling. By trying to clean up Trump messes he just prolongs the time Blotus can make those messes, and offers cover to the GOP and their "we-ain't-moving-til-we-get-our-tax-cut" position. He is not helping the country he is helping the GOP and the Mercers and other 1% interests.

  21. [21] 
    Kick wrote:


    It's looking like Kelly went out and literally DID a Trump -- he went out to explain something then just lied in order to smear someone else and thereby deflect blame and create animus against a Trump critic.

    Thanks for the link. The reporters for The Miami Herald may not have been able to find video or a transcript, but the South Florida Sun Sentinel were able to produce a video. I watched Congresswoman Wilson's entire speech from front to back, and she mentioned money and funding exactly ZERO times.

    In fact, she was giving credit to multiple Republicans for getting the bill to name the building passed through Congress... Boehner, Rubio... in short order and spent the bulk of her speech discussing the integrity of the FBI and the two heroes for which the building was named, and she got their names correct... while General Kelly actually didn't.

    Today Sarah "Huckleberry" Sanders insinuated that a reporter shouldn't question a "4-star Marine General." I don't think she quite understands how this United States democracy was designed to work. All men are created equal, and freedom of the press are concepts they don't quite seem to grasp... you know, the "basics."

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