President Obama isn’t to blame for Sarah Palin’s son’s PTSD, the head of a New York City-based veteran’s organization says.
“It’s not President Obama’s fault that Sarah Palin’s son has PTSD,” Paul Rieckhoff, head of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told NBC News on Wednesday. “PTSD is a very serious problem, a complicated mental health injury and I would be extremely reluctant to blame any one person in particular.”
The comments came after Palin linked her son, Track’s, recent domestic violence arrest to his PTSD and Obama’s lack of “respect” for veterans.
Track, 26, who served in Iraq, was arrested in the family’s hometown of Wasilla, Alaska, on Monday for allegedly punching his girlfriend in the face, kicking her and threatening to commit suicide with an AR-15 assault rifle.
He is scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 19, and again on March 24.
In a statement to PEOPLE, Palin’s family attorney John Tiemessen said: “We appreciate the press respecting the family’s privacy as Track receives the help that he and many of our returning veterans need.”
At a rally for Donald Trump in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Wednesday, Palin said her son, “like so many others,” came back from Iraq “a bit different” and “hardened.” She also said veterans are forced to look at “our own president” and wonder if he can relate.
But Rieckhoff urged Palin to “resist the urge to politicize” PTSD, NBC reports.
“I hope this doesn’t become a portable chew toy in a political campaign,” he said. This is a great opportunity for Sarah Palin to sound the alarm on PTSD.
“Now that she has endorsed Mr. Trump, I would encourage her to talk with him about it. Mr. Trump’s campaign is pretty light on specifics about what he would do for veterans.”
Later on Wednesday, Trump told CNN that it was his idea for Palin to mention her son, because he “thought it would be appropriate,” according to CBS News.
“There was tremendous press and I think it’s something that’s very important to discuss –not even for her son, but for so many other sons and daughters that are coming back from the Middle East, where they have, you know, traumatic problems.”
The Republican front-runner also said that he thinks it was fair of Palin to link Obama to Track’s PTSD.
“Look, you know, everything starts at the top. He’s the president. And I think you can certainly do that.”
Track served with the Alaska-based 25th Infantry Divisions First Stryker Brigade Combat Team for a year while George W. Bush was still president in 2008, NBC reports.
Monday wasn’t Track’s first run-in with the law. In 2014, he and his family were involved in an alleged backwoods brawl. No charged were filed.