President Donald Trump called American soldiers who died on French soil during World War I “losers” during a trip to France in 2018, according to multiple sources cited by The Atlantic. The comments, reportedly made ahead of a planned visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery that was ultimately canceled and blamed on bad weather, were part of a pattern of the Commander in Chief badmouthing slain service members.
Trump later referred to World War I Marines who were killed at Belleau Wood, where American and allied troops successfully halted the German advance towards Paris in 1918, as “suckers” for dying at at the hands of the enemy. Trump reportedly expressed confusion about the United States’ involvement in World War I, asking aides, “Who were the good guys in this war?”
Responding to the report in a statement, the White House said, “This report is patently false. President Trump holds the military in the highest regard. He’s demonstrated his commitment to them at every turn.” An investigative reporter for the Associated Press tweeted that a senior Defense Department official “confirmed this story by Jeffrey Goldberg in its entirety.”
In a statement, Joe Biden, Trump’s Democratic opponent in the upcoming presidential election, said if the report was true, the president's comments are “yet another marker of how deeply President Trump and I disagree about the role of the President of the United States.”
The president has a long history of attacking military service members, even those in his own party, including the late Republican leader Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), whom he called a “fucking loser” upon seeing flags lowered to half-mast in McCain's honor after his death in 2018. “He’s not a war hero,” Trump said of McCain in 2015 while running for the Republican presidential nomination. “I like people who weren’t captured.” The president reportedly told his staff, “We’re not going to support that loser’s funeral” after McCain’s death. Trump was not invited to the memorial service.
During a 2018 planning meeting for a White House military parade, Trump reportedly refused to allow wounded veterans to march, especially not amputees. “Nobody wants to see that,” he was quoted saying.
On a visit to Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day 2017, Trump reportedly joined John Kelly, then Homeland Security Secretary and soon to be White House Chief of Staff. Kelly’s son Robert, who was killed in Afghanistan at the age of 29, is buried there. While standing before the grave, Trump is said to have asked the elder Kelly, “I don’t get it. What was in it for them?”
Kelly thought the remark was a joke at the time but later realized it was not, according to The Atlantic.
In 2016 he also attacked the mother and father of a U.S. Army Captain, Humayun Khan, who received a Purple Heart for bravery after being killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In the same tirade, he called his own work as a businessman a “sacrifice” similar to dying in combat. Khan's parents spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
Trump himself, of course, did not serve in the military, having received a deferment from service during Vietnam due to the alleged presence of bone spurs in his feet. In the '90s, Trump said he considered his attempts to avoid sexually transmitted infections his “personal Vietnam.”
-- Scott Bixby contributed reporting