President Donald Trump on Sunday called on his fans to inundate The Atlantic’s co-owner, Laurene Powell Jobs, with messages after the magazine reported that he once called American soldiers killed in combat “losers” and “suckers.”
“Steve Jobs would not be happy that his wife is wasting money he left her on a failing Radical Left Magazine that is run by a con man (Goldberg) and spews FAKE NEWS & HATE,” Trump tweeted Sunday morning. “Call her, write her, let her know how you feel!!!”
The president’s tweet was his latest salvo in his days-long effort to deny the story, authored by editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg. The story cited several sources with firsthand knowledge of Trump’s remarks.
“Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers,” Trump told aides after scrapping a visit to Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018 to honor the dead service members, according to the publication, which also reported that Trump later referred to Marines who died during the Battle of Belleau Wood in France as “suckers.”
Trump has vigorously denied the report, which NBC News has not independently verified.
“What animal would say such a thing?” Trump said Thursday night as he returned from a campaign rally in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. The White House and other top Trump allies have also denied the report, while Democrats have criticized the remarks as “disgusting.”
Goldberg criticized Trump’s Sunday remarks during an interview with CNN, saying he “spent a lot of my career covering dictatorships in the Middle East and so I am familiar with this kind of discourse.”
“It is a threat. It is meant to intimidate,” he said, adding that the publication is “neither failing nor radical left.”
At the time, the White House claimed that Trump canceled the trip to the cemetery because the weather made it unsafe to fly there. Other world leaders did venture to the cemetery despite the bad weather.
Multiple publications, including Fox News, have since confirmed portions of The Atlantic story. After Fox News’ confirmation, Trump called on the network to fire the correspondent, Jennifer Griffin, who conducted the reporting.
In an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie said he “would be offended too” if he thought the story was accurate.
Wilkie hit the piece’s use of anonymous sourcing and praised Trump for his handling of veterans issues as president.
“What I’m looking at is the Donald Trump that I know, the Donald Trump that has turned around Veterans Affairs,” he said.
The Atlantic also reported that Trump told aides after Sen. John McCain’s death, “We’re not going to support that loser’s funeral,” citing three sources with direct knowledge of the comment.
Defending himself, Trump tweeted he “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.”
In 2015, Trump publicly said McCain, who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, was “not a war hero” and “I like people who weren’t captured.” At the same event, he said, “I don’t like losers” after discussing McCain’s 2008 presidential election loss to then-Sen. Barack Obama.
In his CNN interview, Wilkie attributed Trump’s prior remarks to “politics,” adding, “I judge a man by his actions.”
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, told “This Week” that in his experience, Trump has “been extremely respectful, exactly what you would respect a president in regard to any reference, any conversation, you know, in regard to the military.”
Speaking with ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., who also served as Defense secretary under Obama, said that if true, Trump’s comments are “despicable.”
Hagel then pointed to public remarks Trump has made about McCain, as well as three top former generals who served in the Trump administration: former Defense Secretary James Mattis, former national security adviser H.R. McMaster and former White House chief of staff John Kelly. Hagel said The Atlantic story will “resonate” with the military because of such prior public remarks, adding Trump’s past statements make “the credibility of this article and those anonymous comments more and more credible.”
Speaking with MSNBC, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., pointed to Trump’s 2019 remarks at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in France, during which he blasted Pelosi and former special counsel Robert Mueller.
Saying Trump “dishonored that sacred ground” by engaging in political attacks, Pelosi said: “Whatever he says about this article and that article, we know he dishonored them [by doing so] and it’s on the record.”