'This is who he is': Founder of veterans group blasts Trump over report he called dead US troops 'losers'

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'This is who he is': Founder of veterans group blasts Trump over report he called dead US troops 'losers'
President Donald Trump pauses as he visits Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery after a Memorial Day ceremony Monday, May 29, 2017, in Arlington, Va.AP Photo/Evan Vucci
  • Some military veterans reacted harshly to a report in The Atlantic that said President Donald Trump referred to dead US troops as "losers."
  • "Why should I go to that cemetery?" Trump was said to have told senior staff members, canceling a visit to an American cemetery outside Paris in 2018. Citing multiple sources, The Atlantic said Trump went on to add, "It's filled with losers," and later referred to the dead as "suckers."
  • "Who is really surprised by this?" tweeted Paul Rieckhoff, a combat veteran who founded Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. "This is who he is."
  • "This story doesn't just make me angry. It makes me feel sick," tweeted Will Goodwin, a graduate of West Point who now serves as director of government relations at VoteVets.

A report that President Donald Trump said US troops who died in World War I were "losers" has gone over about as well as one might think it would among liberal military veterans.

While veterans groups such as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars have thus far stayed out of it, others more openly critical of Trump's leadership have reacted angrily to Thursday's story in The Atlantic, which reported that the US president didn't see a need to honor 1,800 Marines who died fighting in France.

"Why should I go to that cemetery?" Trump was said to have told senior staff, canceling a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery outside Paris in 2018 (the White House at the time blamed the cancellation on weather). "It's filled with losers," he reportedly said, later referring to the dead as "suckers."

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The comments, relayed by unnamed sources, are reminiscent of Trump's 2015 mockery of Sen. John McCain. "He's not a war hero," Trump said publicly of McCain, a fighter pilot who was held captive and tortured for over five years in Vietnam after being shot down. "I like people that weren't captured."

Indeed, The Atlantic also reported that Trump referred to McCain in private as a "f---ing loser." He also was said to have called President George H.W. Bush a "loser" for being shot down while serving as a Navy pilot in World War II.

The White House has denied the story. A senior Defense Department official later confirmed it in "its entirety," according to an Associated Press reporter.

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"Who is really surprised by this?" tweeted Paul Rieckhoff, a combat veteran who founded Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. "This is who he is," said Rieckhoff, who supports the Democrat Joe Biden's presidential campaign, arguing Trump "has no respect for anyone."

The Atlantic's report also said Trump disrespected the loss of his chief of staff John Kelly, whose son Robert died fighting in Afghanistan.

"I don't get it," Trump reportedly said during a 2017 trip to Arlington National Cemetery. "What was in it for them?"

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"This story doesn't just make me angry. It makes me feel sick," tweeted Will Goodwin, a graduate of West Point who now serves as director of government relations at VoteVets, a progressive political action committee. "It's disgusting. It's an unthinkable betrayal."

Wall of Vets, a group of veterans that has organized to defend Black Lives Matter protests in Portland, Oregon, posted that "words fail."

"This is the Commander in Chief and this is how he views our fallen brothers and sisters," the group said on Twitter.

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