Donald Trump Denies He Called Late John McCain and Fallen U.S. Soldiers 'Losers'
President Donald Trump is denying a report that he called U.S. soldiers "losers" and "suckers" during a 2018 trip to Paris when he canceled a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery.
Trump, 74, slammed a report from The Atlantic on Thursday that said he "rejected the idea of the visit because he feared his hair would become disheveled in the rain, and because he did not believe it important to honor American war dead, according to four people with firsthand knowledge of the discussion that day." The magazine did not name the four sources.
"Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers," Trump reportedly said to senior staff members the morning the trip was scheduled to take place.
He also reportedly later called the marines who died at Belleau Wood — the battle during which American troops and allies halted Germany's advance into Paris during WWI in 1918 —"suckers" and asked his aides, "Who were the good guys in this war?"
In another scene from the magazine's sources, Trump went to Arlington National Cemetery in 2017 and visited the grave of the son of then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. Robert Kelly had died in 2010 while serving with the Marine Corps in Iraq.
"I don’t get it. What was in it for them?" Trump reportedly said at the cemetery, according to The Atlantic.
Sources also told the magazine that in a 2018 White House planning meeting for a military parade, Trump allegedly did not want wounded veterans included as "Nobody wants to see that."
The remark attributed to him by the magazine’s sources is similar to what he said out loud to Olympic and Paralympic athletes at a White House ceremony in April 2018: that the Paralympic competitions between athletes with disabilities were “tough to watch too much.”
Speaking with reporters on Thursday, Trump denied the story, calling it a "disgrace." He claimed that the Secret Service would not let him go to the cemetery because of rainy weather conditions.
On Twitter, the president said he "never called our great fallen soldiers anything other than HEROES."
"We’re not going to support that loser’s funeral," Trump reportedly told senior staff members of McCain after he died.
Trump on Thursday told reporters that though he disagreed with McCain, he had to "approve" his funeral in 2018 "without hesitation and without complaint."
"I felt he deserved it," Trump said Thursday. Trump did not have to approve McCain's funeral.
His heated denials — on Twitter and at the foot of the stairs of Air Force One — rang hollow alongside his past public, on-the-record disparagements of McCain, which has included calling the senator “not a hero” and "horrible" as recently as last year.
"I’m not a fan of John McCain, and that’s fine," Trump said at a speech in Ohio in March 2019, criticizing McCain's support of the Affordable Care Act.
"I was never a big fan of John McCain, disagreed with him on many things including ridiculous endless wars and the lack of success he had in dealing with the VA and our great Vets, but the lowering of our Nations American Flags, and the first class funeral he was given by our Country, had to be approved by me, as President, & I did so without hesitation or complaint," Trump tweeted Thursday.
"Quite the contrary, I felt it was well deserved," he continued. "I even sent Air Force One to bring his body, in casket, from Arizona to Washington. It was my honor to do so. Also, I never called John a loser and swear on whatever, or whoever, I was asked to swear on, that I never called our great fallen soldiers anything other than HEROES. This is more made up Fake News given by disgusting & jealous failures in a disgraceful attempt to influence the 2020 Election!"
But at the 2015 Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, Trump said of McCain: “He lost and let us down. I've never liked him as much after that. I don't like losers.” And on July 18, 2015, Trump seemed to boast about the insult when he tweeted a link to a political blog that quoted him at the same event calling McCain exactly that — “a loser.”
Trump’s bad blood with McCain started as early as 1999 when Trump questioned whether or not the senator was a war hero during a 60 Minutes interview.
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McCain was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for more than five years. The former Navy pilot previously told PEOPLE that he survived thanks to his “faith in God, faith in my fellow prisoners and faith in my country.”
But on 60 Minutes, Trump, who received a deferment from the military draft, was openly derisive.
“He was captured … Does being captured make you a hero?” he said of McCain. “I don’t know. I’m not sure.”
Trump’s comment resurfaced during the 2016 Republican presidential primary. This time, Trump doubled down.
“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said at the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa in July 2015. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”