Veterans Affairs secretary Robert Wilkie on Sunday hit back at The Atlantic report that quoted President Trump calling slain soldiers in the Battle of Belleau Woods “losers,” but broke from the President’s past criticism of the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).
According to a report in The Atlantic published Thursday, Trump made disparaging comments about American troops, which included skipping a visit to the cemetery in France honoring fallen soldiers in the Battle of Belleau Woods, who he reportedly dismissed as “losers.” The Atlantic also reported that Trump in 2018 called the late McCain a “fucking loser.”
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.”
When asked whether he ever heard 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.”
Pressed on how multiple outlets corroborated The Atlantic’ report, Wilkie proceeded to continue defending Trump.
“Well, nobody is backing down from these anonymous sourcing on it,” Wilkie said. “And some of these sources that you cite are general officers. I was born in khaki diapers. I have spent my entire life around the military. And I have never known any general officers to hide behind stars.”
Wilkie added that he is looking at “the Donald Trump I know” who has turned around Veteran Affairs.”
Later in the interview, Wilkie dismissed Trump’s reported comments slamming McCain as “politics” and that “it’s the heat of a campaign.”
After Wilkie said that he “judges a man by his actions,” he was asked whether he considers the late McCain a war hero.
“Oh, absolutely,” Wilkie said.
Watch Wilkie’s remarks below:
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