Official White House Photo by Shealah CraigheadBy JORDYN PHELPS, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump is forcefully denying a new report that claims he made disparaging remarks about fallen American troops.
According to the new report in The Atlantic by Jeffrey Goldberg, Trump referred to American service members killed in war as “losers” and “suckers” and canceled a visit to a cemetery for American soldiers outside Paris in 2018 because he didn’t think it was important to honor them.
ABC News has not independently confirmed The Atlantic report, which cites four unnamed sources with direct knowledge in making the claims.
Landing in Washington late Thursday night after a campaign rally in Pennsylvania, the president — visibly angry — delivered a 7-minute diatribe to reporters who had traveled on Air Force One.
“I would be willing to swear on anything that I never said that about our fallen heroes. There’s nobody that respects them more,” Trump said.
The president insisted the story is fabricated and suggested the anonymous sources were former officials who did not succeed in their roles in the administration.
“They made it up and probably it’s a couple of people that have been failures in the administration. That I got rid of, and I couldn’t get rid of them fast enough. Or it was just made up,” he said.
Two aides who were at the president’s side on the trip when the comments were alleged to have happened have also come forward to issue forceful on-the-record denials that the president made the disparaging comments alleged in the report.
Former Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted that the story is “total BS.”
“I was actually there and one of the people part of the discussion – this never happened,” Sanders wrote.
The president’s deputy chief of staff for communications, Dan Scavino, also tweeted, calling the report “complete lies by ‘anonymous sources’” and a “disgusting” attempt to smear the president ahead of the election.
The president’s forceful denial comes as he seeks to shore up support among the military ahead of the November election, with polls showing the president trailing Democratic nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden.
“To think I would make statements negative to our military and our fallen heroes when no one has done what I’ve done-with the budgets, with getting pay raises for our military,” Trump said. “All they’re trying to do is influence a presidential election.”
While Trump expressed disbelief at the story’s claims, he has a history of making disparaging comments about members of the military who have been prisoners of wars. He most famously attacked the late Sen. John McCain and said the five years McCain spent in a North Vietnam prison do not make him a hero.
“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said of McCain in 2015. “I like people that weren’t captured. OK? I hate to tell you.”
Thursday night, Trump tried to recast the narrative of his criticism of McCain by boasting that he approved the plans for McCain’s funeral in 2018.
“All of that had to be approved by the president. I approved it without hesitation, without complaint. And I felt he deserved it. I disagreed with him. He was a tough guy,” Trump said.
The president, who has continued to criticize McCain even after his death, was not invited to attend the late senator’s funeral.
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