WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — President Donald Trump defended himself Friday against accusations that he mocked American war dead.
The allegations, sourced anonymously in The Atlantic, describe multiple offensive comments by the president toward fallen and captured U.S. service-members, including calling World War I dead at an American military cemetery in France as “losers” and “suckers” in 2018. The Associated Press says the agency independently confirmed many of the comments in The Atlantic article but didn’t identify any sources.
“This is more made up Fake News given by disgusting & jealous failures in a disgraceful attempt to influence the 2020 Election!” Trump tweeted late Thursday.
“I’ve done more for the military than almost anyone else,” Trump added Friday in the Oval Office. In a Friday news briefing, he called the allegations a hoax and a witch hunt.
The Atlantic alleges the president made the comments as he was set to visit the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery during a trip to France in Nov. 2018. The White House said the visit was scrubbed because foggy weather made the helicopter trip from Paris too risky and the 90-minute drive deemed infeasible.
President Trump, who traveled to Pennsylvania on Thursday, told reporters after he returned to Washington that the Atlantic report was “a disgraceful situation” by a “terrible magazine.”
“I would be willing to swear on anything that I never said that about our fallen heroes,” Trump told the reporters, gathered on the tarmac in the dark. “There is nobody that respects them more. No animal — nobody — what animal would say such a thing?”
Trump also denied calling the late Arizona Sen. John McCain, a decorated Navy officer who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, a “loser” after his Aug. 2018 death.
Trump acknowledged Thursday he was “never a fan” of McCain and disagreed with him, but said he still respected him and approved everything to do with his “first-class triple-A funeral” without hesitation because “I felt he deserved it.”
In 2015, shortly after launching his presidential candidacy, Trump publicly said of McCain, “He’s not a war hero.” He added, “I like people who weren’t captured.” At the time, Trump also shared a news article on Twitter calling McCain a “loser.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told “Fox & Friends” on Friday that he was with the president for a good part of the trip to France. “I never heard him use the words that are described in that article,” Pompeo said.
Former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted that she was part of the discussion about visiting the cemetery. “This never happened. I have sat in the room when our President called family members after their sons were killed in action and it was heart-wrenching. … I am disgusted by this false attack.”
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden declared President Donald Trump “unfit” for the presidency on Friday.
“I’ve just never been as disappointed, in my whole career, with a leader that I’ve worked with, president or otherwise,” Biden added. “If the article is true — and it appears to be, based on other things he’s said — it is absolutely damning. It is a disgrace.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.