Trump administration officials and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) on Sunday came to President Trump’s defense amid backlash over his disparaging remarks toward fallen soldiers that were first reported in The Atlantic.
According to a report in The Atlantic published Thursday, Trump skipped a visit to the cemetery in France honoring fallen soldiers in the Battle of Belleau Woods, who he reportedly dismissed as “losers.” The President also reportedly called the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) — who was captured by the Vietnamese, tortured and imprisoned for more than five years — a “fucking loser” in 2018.
In a series of tweets on Thursday night, Trump denied that he had mocked McCain and fallen soldiers behind closed doors, and dismissed the report as “fake news.”
Trump also attacked The Atlantic in a Sunday morning tweet by particularly taking aim at its majority owner, Laurene Powell Jobs.
Steve Jobs would not be happy that his wife is wasting money he left her on a failing Radical Left Magazine that is run by a con man (Goldberg) and spews FAKE NEWS & HATE. Call her, write her, let her know how you feel!!! https://t.co/wwuoP85bQE
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 6, 2020
During an interview on CNN on Sunday, editor-in-chief of The Atlantic Jeffrey Goldberg fired back at the President, saying that the magazine won’t hold back on reporting on his administration.
“We’re not going to be intimidated by the President of the United States,” Goldberg told CNN. “We’re going to do our jobs.”
Although Trump administration officials such as Defense Secretary Mark Esper have defended the President following The Atlantic’s report, Republicans on Capitol Hill have yet to directly weigh in on the controversy that has ensued. Thus far, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) praised the President for saying that he will reverse the Pentagon’s plan to shutter the military newspaper Stars and Stripes — a decision that came shortly after The Atlantic’s report was published — but has not publicly responded to Trump’s reportedly disparaging comments on fallen soldiers.
Here’s how Trump administration officials and DeWine came to the President’s defense on Sunday:
Veterans Affairs secretary Robert Wilkie
When asked whether he recalls hearing the President say disparaging things about service members during an interview on CNN, Wilkie replied, “Well, absolutely not.”
“And I would be offended, too, if I thought it was true,” Wilkie said. “Again, I think anonymous are the same people that brought you fake heart attacks, fake strokes, Russian collusion. So, I am very proud that this president has led to a renaissance at Veterans Affairs.”
Later in the interview, Wilkie brushed off Trump’s reported comments that tore into McCain as “politics” and that “it’s the heat of a campaign.”
After Wilkie said that he “judges a man by his actions,” he said that he “absolutely” considers the late McCain to be a war hero.
Veterans Affairs secretary Robert Wilkie denies Trump making disparaging comments about fallen soldiers: "Well, absolutely not. And I would be offended, too, if I thought it was true." pic.twitter.com/LHRLf1zlg7
— Talking Points Memo (@TPM) September 6, 2020
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin
During an interview on “Fox News Sunday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin insisted that Trump “supports the military in an unbelievable way,” citing how he has accompanied the President during his visits to the Arlington National Cemetery, the World War II Memorial and the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial.
“I think this president has enormous respect for the military and for the generals,” Mnuchin said on Fox News Sunday. “This President respects and supports the U.S. military.”
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R)
During an interview on ABC News, DeWine said that Trump has been “extremely respectful” when speaking about the military.
After ABC News’ Martha Raddatz pointed out that multiple outlets have confirmed The Atlantic’s report — which cites four anonymous sources — DeWine suggested that sources should publicly come forward or else “it’s never going to have the credibility,” before reiterating that the President has been “extremely respectful” regarding his comments on the military.
DeWine also said that he disagrees with Trump’s past comments that were critical of the late McCain, but echoed Wilkie in pointing out that the report in The Atlantic came out amid an election season.
“I mean, you know, we’re into the campaign. You know, a lot of things come out in a campaign,” DeWine said. “And I think sometimes people — when they only come out during a campaign, you know, people are somewhat skeptical about them.”
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said based on his “experience," Trump has been “respectful” in discussing the military.
“Look, I don’t agree with that…John McCain I have great respect for,” DeWine tells @MarthaRaddatz when pressed on Trump’s comments about McCain. https://t.co/ScDveU4dz4 pic.twitter.com/HBRuX7xUHp
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) September 6, 2020