During a surprise press briefing Monday, President Trump claimed that President Obama did not call the families of fallen soldiers. The president was answering a question about how he was responding to the death of four elite U.S. special forces in Niger earlier this month.
Trump explained that he had written the families personal letters and said that he will call them “at some point” after “a little time” has passed.
“The traditional way, if you look at President Obama and other presidents — most of them didn’t make calls,” he said. “A lot of them didn’t make calls.”
As former White House aides and even former Obama Deputy Chief of Staff Alyssa Mastromonaco pointed out on Twitter after Trump made the claim, Obama and other presidents did, in fact, make calls to those families. Additionally, Obama also reversed a policy of not sending condolence letters to the families of U.S. soldiers who commit suicide.
Obama visited wounded troops at Walter Reed so often that hawks worried it was making him too anti-war https://t.co/9kDo2Xbcdd
— Foppish Vox Hipster (@dylanmatt) October 16, 2017
Trump’s false accusation echoes a conspiracy theory Trump helped elevate long before he was even a candidate for office. The Gateway Pundit, a conservative outlet which has its own White House press credentials, wrote in 2012 that Obama had sent the same form letter to all fallen soldiers’ families, signed with auto-pen. The White House countered at the time, saying that the president personally signs every letter.
For his part, Trump tweeted his support for the Gateway Pundit’s debunkd conspiracy theory.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 30, 2012
Although the president on Monday claimed he was focused on the families of the fallen troops, he seemingly had other things on his mind this past weekend: Trump visited golf courses for his 72nd and 73rd times as president on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. He’s been in office for 38 weeks.
UPDATE: White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a statement later on Monday defending Trump’s remark, claiming that he was correct because former presidents didn’t call “each family of the fallen.”
A senior administration official later added that the president was waiting to reach out until “the Pentagon’s paperwork was completed”, according to The New York Times.