On Tuesday, President Donald Trump defended the false claim he’s made that former president Barack Obama didn’t call the families of service members who were killed in action. He is referring to former General John Kelly’s son, who was killed in combat in Afghanistan after stepping on a landmine.
In a radio interview with Fox News, Trump said, “You could ask General Kelly, did he get a call from Obama?” Kelly, who joined the Trump administration as Trump’s Chief of Staff in July, does not often speak about his son 1st Lt. Robert Michael Kelly.
Trump adds, “I don’t know what Obama’s policy was. I write letters and I also call.” He claims that he has called “virtually everybody” in his 9 months as commander in chief. These comments were made in response to being why he hadn’t yet addressed the service members who were killed in Niger earlier in the month. He falsely claimed that former President Barack Obama didn’t call the family members of service members who were killed in action.
When questioned as to how he could make these claims, Trump replied that Obama “didn’t often” call families of fallen service members. He states, “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.”
Kelly generally avoids speaking publicly about his son, according to a 2011 profile in The Boston Globe. He is wary of drawing any attention. He explained, “We are not inclined to make ourselves to be any different, just because I’m a lieutenant general in the Marines […] We are just one family. It’s not worse for us; it’s not easier for us.”
On Tuesday, a White House official stated that Obama did not call Kelly after the death of his son. However, Kelly and his wife attended the breakfast for Gold Star Families – a private event – and were seated at former first lady Michelle Obama’s table.
A former senior Obama administration official disputed the claims made by Trump and said that they were flat out ‘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.”
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