US President Donald Trump has demanded Fox News fire its national security correspondent after she confirmed claims that the Republican leader had disparaged the military – a bombshell that has dogged him for days.
Trump came under fire after The Atlantic magazine reported that he had called Marines killed in action in World War I “losers” and “suckers” in connection with a November 2018 visit to France when he skipped a visit to a US military cemetery.
The official explanation for that missed visit was bad weather.
Fox News correspondent Jennifer Griffin said two former administration officials had confirmed to her that the president “did not want to drive to honor American war dead” at the Aisne-Marne cemetery outside Paris, implying weather was not a factor.
One official also told her that Trump had used the word “suckers” to denigrate the military, but in a different context related to the Vietnam War.
“When the president spoke about the Vietnam War, he said, ‘It was a stupid war. Anyone who went was a sucker,'” she quoted the unnamed official as saying.
“It was a character flaw of the President. He could not understand why someone would die for their country, not worth it,” the source said.
A furious Trump tweeted late Friday: “Jennifer Griffin should be fired for this kind of reporting. Never even called us for comment. @FoxNews is gone!”
Trump has furiously defended himself in the wake of the story in The Atlantic, tweeting and retweeting stories condemning it as “fake news.” He called the magazine’s editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg, who wrote the piece, a “slimeball.”
The habitually Trump-friendly Fox News has been criticized for seemingly sidelining Griffin’s reporting in its coverage of the story.
A story on its front page Saturday was headlined: “Sources dispute claim Trump nixed visit to military cemetery over disdain for slain veterans.”
Several of Griffin’s colleagues at Fox have publicly defended her on Twitter, along with Republican congressman Adam Kinzinger, who called her “fair and unafraid.”
“I can tell you that my sources are unimpeachable,” Griffin said on-air Saturday on her network. “My sources are not anonymous to me and I doubt they are anonymous to the president.”
Just before The Atlantic published its story, a poll by the Military Times and the Syracuse University Institute for Veterans and Military Families found that just 37.4% of active duty personnel support Trump’s re-election bid, while 43.1% back Joe Biden.
The Atlantic report, penned by Goldberg, said Trump had refused to visit the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018 because “he feared his hair would become disheveled in the rain,” although the official explanation offered by aides was that the helicopter due to take him there could not fly due to weather.
“In a conversation with senior staff members on the morning of the scheduled visit, Trump said, ‘Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers,'” the article said.
“In a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump referred to the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as ‘suckers’ for getting killed,” the Atlantic added, citing four unnamed people it said had firsthand knowledge of the discussions.
Trump slammed the report late Thursday, after his aides earlier called the allegations “disgusting, grotesque, reprehensible lies.”
“Somebody makes up this horrible story that I didn’t want to go,” he told reporters after returning from a campaign rally in Pennsylvania.
“If they really exist, if people really exist that would have said that, they’re low lifes and they’re liars. And I would be willing to swear on anything that I never said that about our fallen heroes,” he said.
“No animal, nobody, what animal would say such a thing?”
‘Disgusting & jealous’
However, some critics pointed to Trump’s denigrating comments about late senator John McCain, who was captured in Vietnam and was widely regarded as a war hero.
Trump said in the run-up to the 2016 election: “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
The US president acknowledged on Twitter that he was “never a big fan” of McCain, but that lowering of flags after the senator’s death and his “first class” funeral in Washington “had to be approved by me, as President, & I did so without hesitation or complaint. Quite the contrary, I felt it was well deserved.”
“Also, I 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,” Trump added.
“This is more made up Fake News given by disgusting & jealous failures in a disgraceful attempt to influence the 2020 Election!”
Around 1,800 US Marines died in the battle at Belleau Wood, holding off a German advance toward Paris in 1918.
According to the Atlantic, Trump asked aides on his trip to France, “Who were the good guys in this war?” and could not understand why the United States had come to the aid of the Allies.
Biden, Trump’s rival in the November 3 election, said in a statement that if the article’s allegations are true, “then they are yet another marker of how deeply President Trump and I disagree about the role of the President of the United States.”
“If I have the honor of serving as the next commander in chief, I will ensure that our American heroes know that I will have their back and honor their sacrifice – always,” Biden said.