President Donald Trump spent his Labor Day pushing back on allegations that he made insensitive comments about dead soldiers, slamming Defense Department leadership, and criticizing presidential rival Joe Biden, during a rambling White House press conference on Monday.
Trump kicked off his press conference with a 20-minute attack on Biden in which he said the former vp “shipped away our jobs, threw open our borders, and sent our youth to fight in these crazy, endless wars.”
“I'm not saying the military is in love with me. The soldiers are,” Trump continued. “The top people in the Pentagon probably aren't because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else, stay happy. But we're getting out of the endless wars, you know how we're doing.”
Trump’s criticism of the country’s military leadership comes after The Atlantic reported last week that Trump had privately called the late U.S. Sen. John McCain a “fucking loser,” said troops who died in wars were “suckers,” and asked former chief of staff and retired general John Kelly “What was in it for them?” while standing near the grave of Kelly’s son, who died in combat. Several other outlets confirmed key details of the Atlantic’s story, including Fox News national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin. Trump called for her to be fired on Friday.
On Monday, Trump said he was “not a fan of McCain because he wanted the endless wars and I didn’t,” but he again flatly denied that he’d said the things reported in The Atlantic story.
“The story is a hoax written by a guy who's got a tremendously bad history,” Trump told reporters Monday, referring to The Atlantic editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg. “The magazine itself, which I don't read, but I hear is just totally anti-Trump. He's a big Obama person. He's a big Clinton person and he made up the story.”
“It just came out, and it's a disgrace. Who would say a thing like that? Only an animal would say a thing like that,” Trump added. “There is nobody that has more respect for not only our military but for people that gave their lives in the military. I think John Kelly knows that. I think he would know that.”
In addition to the fallout from the Atlantic report last week, the Trump administration was also heavily criticized last week for trying to shut down editorially independent military newspaper Stars & Stripes, after a leaked Defense Department memo asked the outlet for a plan to dissolve by the end of September. Though the administration’s budget had called for closing the outlet in February 2021, Trump abruptly announced on Twitter Friday that the newspaper would continue to publish.
Trump’s approval rating with active duty military has plummeted, and he now finds himself slightly trailing Biden for their support, according to a Military Times poll released last month.
Cover: President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference on the North Portico of the White House, Monday, Sept. 7, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)