By Jonathan Easley (The Hill)
Democratic nominee Joe Biden offered an emotional rebuke of President Trump on Friday following an anonymously-sourced report in The Atlantic accusing the president of disparaging dead military veterans as “losers” and “suckers.”
“If what is written in The Atlantic is true, it’s disgusting,” Biden said. “It affirms what most of us believe to be true, that Donald Trump is not fit to be the commander in chief.”
The Atlantic story dominated political discussions on Friday as Republicans expressed skepticism of the anonymous sources behind the story and Democrats expressed outrage over remarks that mirror the president’s past disparagement of military veterans, including the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
Speaking from Wilmington, Del., Biden angrily lashed out at the president, invoking his own deceased son, Beau Biden, a Bronze Star recipient for his service in Iraq.
“When my son volunteered and joined the U.S. military … and went to Iraq for a year, won the Bronze Star and other accommodations, he wasn’t a sucker,” Biden said. “The service men and women he served with, particularly those that did not come home, were not losers. If these statements are true, the president should humbly apologize to every Gold Star mother and father and every Blue Star family that he’s denigrated and insulted. Who the heck does he think he is?”
Trump has vehemently and repeatedly denied the allegations, calling it a “fake story.”
Trump said he had no need to apologize since the remarks were not true.
“It was a totally fake story, and that was confirmed by many people that were actually there,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Friday. “It was a terrible thing that somebody could say the kind of things — especially to me because I have done more for the military than almost anybody else.”
The administration has produced on-the-record denials from current administration officials who were traveling with the president when the remarks were reportedly made.
Former national security adviser John Bolton, a Trump critic who has written a tell-all book accusing the president of overseeing a corrupt and chaotic administration, says the alleged remarks did not happen while he was with the president on the trip.
Bolton, who has clashed with Trump since leaving the administration, told The New York Times he was on the trip and did not hear the president make the alleged remarks.
“I didn’t hear that,” Bolton said. “I’m not saying he didn’t say them later in the day or another time, but I was there for that discussion.”
Trump noted Bolton’s remarks in his own comments.
The story in The Atlantic claims that Trump canceled a trip to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018 because he was worried his hair would get messed up by the rain.
The piece, by The Atlantic’s editor in chief Jeffrey Goldberg, claims that Trump asked senior staff why he should go to a cemetery that is filled with “losers.”
Goldberg also reported that Trump referred to Marines killed at the Belleau Wood during World War I as “suckers.”
The outrage and back-and-forth overshadowed a solid jobs report on Friday that found the U.S. adding 1.4 million jobs in August and the unemployment rate dipping below the 10 percent mark for the first time since March.
The Biden campaign released a new web ad featuring the remarks playing over solemn music and images of troops and military cemeteries.
Other current and former administration officials who traveled with the president on the France trip, including former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, current White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications Dan Scavino, and Jordan Karem, the president’s personal aide, also denied the story.
“This is 100 percent false,” Karem tweeted. “I was next to @POTUS the whole day! The President was greatly disappointed when told we couldn’t fly there. He was incredibly eager to honor our Fallen Heroes.”
The White House insists the visit to the cemetery was canceled due to weather.
But Democrats pounced on the story, pointing to how the remarks mirrored the president’s past feuds with veterans and Gold Star families.
Trump has mocked McCain, who was tortured in North Vietnam, calling him a “loser” and saying he prefers soldiers “who weren’t captured.”