White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told TPM Monday that President Donald Trump was not criticizing his predecessor when he claimed that former President Barack Obama did not call grieving military families. Trump walked back the claim when a reporter asked him about it.
At a press conference Monday, Trump claimed that “President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls,” to the families of fallen service members.
“The President wasn’t criticizing predecessors, but stating a fact,” Sanders said in an email to TPM.
“When American heroes make the ultimate sacrifice, Presidents pay their respects,” she continued. “Sometimes they call, sometimes they send a letter, other times they have the opportunity to meet family members in person. This President, like his predecessors, has done each of these. Individuals claiming former presidents, such as their bosses, called each family of the fallen, are mistaken.”
However, Trump himself walked back his stated “fact” by the end of the press conference.
Pressed on how he would know whether Obama had called grieving families or not, Trump said “I don’t know if he did. No, no. I was told that he didn’t often and a lot of presidents don’t.”
“That’s what I was told,” he said. “All I can do is ask my generals.”
Trump also admitted during the press conference that he had not yet been in touch with the families of four fallen Green Berets killed in Niger on Oct. 4.
“I’ve written them personal letters. They’ve been sent, or they’re going out tonight,” he said, adding later: “I’m going to be calling them. I want a little time to pass.”
Sanders did not respond to TPM’s questions about how frequently Trump delays contact with grieving military families for 12 days and counting.