President Trump refused to visit the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in France in 2018 because he regarded the dead World War I veterans as “suckers” and “losers,” according to a report from the Atlantic citing four senior staffers, echoing disparaging comments made against late Sen. John McCain’s service in the military while campaigning for president in 2015.
The bombshell report did not name the staffers who made the allegations, including details from a November 2018 trip to France, when Trump claimed bad weather that had forced his helicopter to be grounded was the reason for cancelling a planned visit to the cemetery, where 2,289 U.S. troops are buried, many of whom died at the bloody Battle of Belleau Wood.
However, according to the Atlantic, the visit was actually cancelled because Trump worried the weather would ruin his hair and because he felt the Americans buried there were “suckers” for dying.
“Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers,” Trump reportedly said, along with questioning why the Marines fought for the Allies and who the “good guys” of the war were.
The words echo what Trump said about McCain in 2015, saying at an Iowa summit at the time, “He was a war hero because he was captured,” and that “I like people who weren’t captured,” with the Atlantic adding that Trump called McCain a “f—ing loser” when he died in 2018.
The report also describes an Arlington National Cemetery visit in 2017, where Trump asked former White House chief of staff John Kelly, “I don’t get it—what’s in it for them?” as he stood near the grave of Kelly’s son Robert, who was killed in Afghanistan.
Attempting to hold a military parade in 2018—which was postponed after reports that it would cost $92 million—Trump also reportedly asked not to include wounded veterans because “nobody wants to see that.”
White House Communications Director Alyssa Farah called the Atlantic report “offensive and patently false.”
Trump infamously avoided the draft for the Vietnam War with four education deferments and a fifth deferment for “bone spurs,” Trump told the New York Times in 2016. As illustrated by the Atlantic report, Trump has a streak of questioning military service. In 2016, Trump criticized the Muslim parents of a slain U.S. soldier who said at the Democratic National Convention that Trump “sacrificed nothing,” responding by saying, “I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices; I work very, very hard,” and questioning why the soldier’s mother didn’t say anything during the speech.
After Trump chose not to visit the cemetery in 2018, the French army tweeted a picture of a recruit navigating an obstacle in the rain with the caption, “There is rain, but it’s okay. We stay motivated.”
In June, Trump’s former secretary of state, Gen. James Mattis, strongly criticized Trump’s use of federal troops against peaceful protesters in Washington, D.C., to afford him a photo op in front of St. John’s Church. “When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens—much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.”
42%. That’s the percentage of active-duty troops that view Trump very unfavorably, according to an August Military Times poll. Support for Trump from members of the military has fallen since 2016, when 40.5% favored him over the 20.6% who preferred Hillary Clinton. In its August poll, former vice president Joe Biden has 41.3% support versus 37.4% for Trump.