There is little in this world that sets Jake Tapper on edge more than those who disrespect the military. And that is especially true when the man doing to disrespecting is President Donald Trump.
On Wednesday, Tapper spent the first several minutes of his CNN show The Lead digging into the controversy that has followed Trump’s phone call with the grieving widow of a U.S. soldier who was killed in Niger earlier this month.
“The loss of a service member and the pain of his or her family is part of life in this nation that we at The Lead try to treat with appropriate sensitivity and respect,” Tapper told his viewers before reviewing what Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-FL) has said she heard Trump tell the soldier’s widow over the phone. According to those accounts, the president said her husband “must have known what he signed up for” and appeared not to remember his name, instead referring to him only as “your guy.”
Tapper said Trump’s denials that he disrespected the soldier and his widow “makes very little difference when you think about it,” adding, “the family heard what it heard, even if the president was completely misunderstood, his attempt at comfort failed.”
“Under the best of circumstances, these moments between a commander in chief and the family of a fallen service member are awful—just awful,” the anchor continued. “The problem that President Trump might have here, however, is that when it comes to sensitivity, when it comes to sensitivity about service and sacrifice, specifically, he's already made what critics have assessed to be some grievously bad decisions.”
He went on to mention Trump’s 2015 comments about Sen. John McCain—“I like people that weren’t captured”—and the Gold Star parents of Captain Humayan Khan as examples of the president’s seeming inability to show the proper respect for the military and its families.
“Amidst all this ham-handedness, the president this week falsely accused President Obama and previous presidents of never having phoned Gold Star families, in an apparent attempt to make himself look more attentive and compassionate I suppose,” Tapper said. Even worse, he added, was Trump’s decision to use his chief of staff John Kelly’s son, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2010, to discredit Obama.
“I've learned on this job that telling the stories of troops and their families, that it's very important that we all choose our words very carefully when discussing these losses,” Tapper added. “And it's not just journalists and politicians, all of us need to consider the unimaginable that these families go through when we speak to them and when we speak of them.”
“If you don't take great care, and, in fact, if you're reckless about these kind office sacrifices,” he continued, “well, then people may not be willing to give you the benefit of the doubt if on one occasion your words come out wrong.”