Gold Star families are coming out en masse and disputing Trump's claims amid his latest controversy

  • Gold Star families are speaking out after President Donald Trump said his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, did not call the families of fallen soldiers.
  • A number of Gold Star families who lost their children or spouses in the military during Trump's term in office said the president has yet to call them.
  • One Gold Star parent said Trump promised him a $25,000 check, only for it not to come. The White House said the check has been sent.


Gold Star families are speaking out after President Donald Trump accused former President Barack Obama of not calling the families of fallen soldiers.

As The Washington Post and Associated Press have found in extensive reports on Trump's calls to Gold Star families since taking office, a number of parents and spouses say they have yet to receive calls from the commander-in-chief.

And one parent who did receive a call from Trump said the president promised him a $25,000 check, which he had not yet received. The White House later said the check "has been sent."

RELATED: Donald Trump's visit to Puerto Rico

18 PHOTOS
Donald Trump's visit to Puerto Rico
See Gallery
Donald Trump's visit to Puerto Rico
CAROLINA, PUERTO RICO - OCTOBER 03: President Donald Trump and Melania Trump greet U.S Air Force airmen as he arrives at the Muniz Air National Guard Base as he makes a visit after Hurricane Maria hit the island on October 3, 2017 in Carolina, Puerto Rico. The President has been criticized by some that say the government's response has been inadequate. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump throws rolls of paper towels into a crowd of local residents affected by Hurricane Maria as he visits Calgary Chapel in San Juan, Puerto Rico, U.S., October 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump talks with Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello (L) as they take their seats for a briefing on hurricane relief efforts in a hangar at Muniz Air National Guard Base in Carolina, Puerto Rico, U.S. October 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump visits with residents while visiting Puerto Rico to survey relief efforts following Hurricane Maria in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, U.S., October 3, 2017 REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump gestures as he walks through a neighborhood damaged by Hurricane Maria with first lady Melania Trump as the president tours hurricane damage in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, U.S., October 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump talks with residents as first lady Melania Trump (C) and U.S. Rep and Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico Jenniffer Gonzalez (R) look on as the president visits areas damaged by Hurricane Maria in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, U.S., October 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump greets troops as he arrives aboard Air Force One, to survey hurricane damage, at Muniz Air National Guard Base in Carolina, Puerto Rico, U.S. October 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz before a briefing to survey hurricane damage, at Muniz Air National Guard Base in Carolina, Puerto Rico, U.S. October 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump, sitting between Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello and first lady Melania Trump, sits down to a briefing on hurricane damage, at Muniz Air National Guard Base in Carolina, Puerto Rico, U.S. October 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump depart the White House in Washington, U.S., on their way to view storm damage in Puerto Rico, U.S., October 3, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump throws rolls of paper towels into a crowd of local residents affected by Hurricane Maria as he visits Calgary Chapel in San Juan, Puerto Rico, U.S., October 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump (L), wearing boots, arrive aboard Air Force One, to survey hurricane damage, at Muniz Air National Guard Base in Carolina, Puerto Rico, U.S. October 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump visit residents affected by Hurricane in Guaynabo, west of San Juan, Puerto Rico on October 3, 2017. Nearly two weeks after Hurricane Maria thrashed through the US territory, much of the islands remains short of food and without access to power or drinking water. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump visit residents affected by Hurricane in Guaynabo, west of San Juan, Puerto Rico on October 3, 2017. Nearly two weeks after Hurricane Maria thrashed through the US territory, much of the islands remains short of food and without access to power or drinking water. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump throws rolls of paper towels to a crowd of local residents affected by Hurricane Maria as he visits a disaster relief distribution center at Calgary Chapel in San Juan, Puerto Rico, U.S., October 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump greet troops as they depart the USS Kearsarge off the coast of San Juan, Puerto Rico, U.S. October 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump talks with local residents during a walking tour of areas damaged by Hurricane Maria in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, U.S., October 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

The AP reached out to the families of all 43 military servicemembers who have died on duty during the Trump presidency, making contact with roughly half the families. Of the families that would discuss their contact with Trump after the death of their child or spouse, nine said they had heard from Trump either in a phone call or letter, while nine others said they had not.

The biggest revelation came from Chris Baldridge, whose son, Army Sgt. Dillon Baldridge, was killed in June in Afghanistan. Baldridge told The Post that Trump offered him a $25,000 check and offered to help establish an online fundraiser for the family in his phone call following the death, but the president apparently did not follow through.

"I could not believe he was saying that, and I wish I had it recorded because the man did say this," Baldridge said. "He said, 'No other president has ever done something like this,' but he said, 'I'm going to do it.'"

In a statement following The Post story, White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters told the publication that the check had been sent.

RELATED: 10 most common words used to describe Trump

11 PHOTOS
10 most common words used to describe Trump
See Gallery
10 most common words used to describe Trump

"Incompetent"

 "Arrogant"

"Strong"

"Idiot"

"Egotistical"

 "Ignorant"

"Great"

"Racist"

"A**hole"

"Narcissistic"

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

"It's disgusting that the media is taking something that should be recognized as a generous and sincere gesture, made privately by the president, and using it to advance the media's biased agenda," she said.

CNN subsequently reported that Trump sent the check on Wednesday, when The Post's story was published.

Among the people who spoke up about not having received a phone call from the president was Mark Hunter, whose son, Army Sgt. Jonathon M. Hunter, died in a suicide bombing attack in Afghanistan in August. Hunter told the AP that he was told to expect a call from Trump, but that it did not happen.

"Disappointed that he at least didn't call and thank me for my son and our ultimate sacrifice," he said. "That's all I wanted to hear. He didn't have to say nothing else. That's all I wanted to hear. From him — not the vice president."

The family spoke with Vice President Mike Pence.

Though, as the AP reported, calling every family of a fallen soldier is not a tradition, and past presidents have not called each Gold Star family.

RELATED: Trump and Pence

23 PHOTOS
Donald Trump and Mike Pence
See Gallery
Donald Trump and Mike Pence
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (L) and U.S. President Donald Trump appear on stage at a rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, U.S. April 29, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
U.S. President Donald Trump talks with Vice President Mike Pence as he departs the White House to North Dakota, in Washington, U.S., September 6, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump waves after attending a briefing with Vice President Mike Pence (L) and first lady Melania Trump (R) on Hurricane Irma relief efforts in Fort Myers, Florida, U.S., September 14, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump stands with first lady Melania Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen (R) during a moment of silence in the wake of the the mass shooting in Las Vegas at the White House in Washington, U.S., October 2, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence escorts U.S. President Donald Trump back towards the table after Trump left before signing an executive order on healthcare at the White House in Washington, U.S., October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence stand on the ramp of Air Force One as Trump arrives in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S., August 22, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump is joined by (L-R) Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Vice President Mike Pence, senior advisor Steve Bannon, Communications Director Sean Spicer and National Security Advisor Michael Flynn as he speaks by phone with Russia's President Vladimir Putin in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 28, 2017. With the departure of Bannon from the White House on August 18, 2017 none of these men remain working with Trump at the White House except Vice President Pence. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo
Vice President Mike Pence laughs as U.S. President Donald Trump holds a baseball bat as they attend a Made in America product showcase event at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 17, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the first meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity chaired by Vice President Mike Pence (R) at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 19, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters with Vice President Mike Pence at his side at Trump's golf estate in Bedminster, New Jersey U.S. August 10, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence attend a National Day of Prayer event at the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington D.C., U.S., May 4, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
President Donald Trump, Vice-President Mike Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions attend the National Peace Officers Memorial Service on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., May 15, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump reacts as he is introduced by Vice President Mike Pence (L) during the signing of an executive order on "Energy Independence," eliminating Obama-era climate change regulations at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) headquarters in Washington, U.S., March 28, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Trump addresses Joint Session of Congress - Washington, U.S. - 28/02/17 - U.S. President Donald Trump speaks in front of Vice President Mike Pence (L) and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
U.S. President Donald Trump (C), Vice President Mike Pence (R) and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus arrive to meet Harley Davidson executives at the South Lawn of the White House in Washington U.S., February 2, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump sings the U.S. National Anthem while accompanied by his wife Melania, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen (R) during a prayer service at Washington National Cathedral the morning after his inauguration, in Washington, U.S., January 21, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump with his wife Melania and Vice President Mike Pence with his wife Karen cut a cake at the Armed Services Ball in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence salute marchers during the inaugural parade in Washington, January 20, 2017. Donald Trump was sworn in earlier as the 45th President of the United States. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Mike Pence(L), Donald Trump (2nd L), U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden attend inauguration ceremonies swearing in Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States on the West front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
First Lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Karen Pence wave goodbye to Barack and Michelle Obama on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. REUTERS/Rob Carr/Pool
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump (R) shakes hands with Indiana Governor Mike Pence (L) before addressing the crowd during a campaign stop at the Grand Park Events Center in Westfield, Indiana, July 12, 2016. REUTERS/John Sommers II
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump shakes hands with his running mate Governor Mike Pence (R) at the conclusion of the final session of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Trump brought the issue to the limelight earlier this week when, at a Monday press conference, he said former President Barack Obama and fellow predecessors did not call the families of soldiers killed in the line of duty. Trump made the comment when asked why he had not publicly mentioned the soldiers killed in the Niger ambush earlier this month.

It was a false claim that was met with scorn from former Obama administration aides, and Trump backed off the claim slightly when pressed further by reporters.

"I think I've called every family of someone who's died," Trump said, adding, "virtually everybody."

After the initial backlash to his comments, Trump also told Fox News Radio host Brian Kilmeade on Tuesday to ask his chief of staff, John Kelly, whether Obama called him when his son Robert was killed in Afghanistan in 2010.

The episode intensified after Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida told the Miami ABC affiliate WPLG on Tuesday that Trump had told Myeshia Johnson — the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, one of the four troops killed during a mission in Niger — that, "He knew what he signed up for, but when it happens, it hurts anyway."

"So insensitive," Wilson told WPLG. "He should not have said that — he shouldn't have said it."

Wilson, who mentored Sgt. Johnson, said she was riding in the car with Myeshia, who was on her way to the airport to receive her husband's body, when Trump called. The phone was on speaker.

Wilson then told MSNBC on Wednesday morning that the soldier's widow was "crying the whole time" and that when she hung up the phone, she looked at Wilson and said, "He didn't even remember his name."

That led Trump on Wednesday to say he had proof she "fabricated" her account of the call.

Speaking to the press during a White House meeting with the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday, Trump again pushed back on Wilson's account of what he said.

"Didn't say it at all," he said. "She knows it. And she now is not saying it. I did not say what she said and I'd like her to make the statement again because I did not say what she said. I had a very nice conversation with the woman, with the wife, who sounded like a lovely woman. Did not say what the congresswoman said, and most people aren't too surprised to hear that."

Kelly later blasted Wilson during Thursday's press briefing for telling the press about the details of Trump's call, calling her an "empty barrel" whose "selfish behavior" stunned him and adding that the message Trump was sending to Sgt. Johnson's was that he was where he wanted to be when he life was taken from him.

John KellyScreenshot/White House

"That was the message," Kelly said. "That was the message that was transmitted. It stuns me that a member of Congress would have listened in to that conversation. Absolutely stuns me. And I thought at least that was sacred."

Sgt. Johnson's own mother told The Post via Facebook Messenger on Wednesday that Wilson's account of the conversation was accurate.

"President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband," Cowanda Jones-Johnson told The Post. Though she declined to elaborate, she said "yes" when asked whether Wilson's account was true, The Post reported.

Other Gold Star family members spoke to various media outlets as this episode continued to unfold. On CNN Thursday morning, Shelia Murphy, mother of fallen soldier Etienne Murphy, who was killed in Syria in a rollover incident in May, said she had not received a call from Trump.

"But it's OK," she said. "It doesn't matter if I hear from the White House. It's not really about that. I just want people to remember my son."

"I just want him to not forget my son," she added. "I thanked President Trump for ordering the air strike in Syria. It just wasn't enough to save my child. I have no hard feelings toward anyone."

Ryan Cross, a veteran of Afghanistan whose brother, Benjamin Cross, was one of three US servicemembers killed when a military plane crashed off the coast of Australia earlier this year, said he felt sick that Trump was "using fallen service members to score political points."

"Especially when his claims of reaching out to every Gold Star family are completely false,” Cross told The Portland Press Herald in a text message Thursday.

"Personally, I'd rather not hear from him given that I don't believe he has any clue as to what service and sacrifice really mean, nor does he understand the gravity of what we as members of the armed forces, veterans and their families risk and have risked," he added.

More from Business Insider:

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.