U.S. President Donald Trump reportedly offered the father of an American soldier who was killed in action $25,000, but he didn’t follow through on the promise until a newspaper started asking questions about it.
Trump called Chris Baldridge, father of Sgt. Dillon Baldridge, a couple of weeks after the sergeant’s death, The Washington Post reported.
The soldier was killed by Afghan police during a suspected intruder attack on June 10.
Trump and Baldridge talked about the manner of his son’s death, according to the newspaper.
“I said, ‘Me and my wife would rather our son died in trench warfare,’” Baldridge said. “I feel like he got murdered over there.”
They also discussed the military’s survivor benefits program, which Baldridge had issues with. Since his son’s beneficiary was Baldridge’s ex-wife, the entire $100,000 death gratuity offered by the Pentagon went to her even though Baldridge was struggling financially.
“He said, ‘I’m going to write you a check out of my personal account for $25,000,’ and I was just floored,” Baldridge told the Post. “I could not believe he was saying that, and I wish I had it recorded because the man did say this. He said, ‘No other president has ever done something like this,’ but he said, ‘I’m going to do it.’”
Baldridge said he received a condolence letter from the president, but no cheque so far.
Initially, the White House didn’t respond to the Post’s request for comment, but spokesperson Lindsay Walters replied after the story was published.
“The cheque has been sent,” she said, in a statement reported by CNN. “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.”
READ MORE: Donald Trump claims predecessors didn’t honour fallen, prompts angry response
Trump has been in hot water for comments surrounding phone calls to the families of soldiers who died in action for the past two weeks.
He first told reporters that he has “called every family of someone who’s died,” though multiple news organizations have talked to families of fallen soldiers who have not heard from Trump; The Associated Press talked to the family of Army Spec. Etienne Murphy, while the Washington Post talked to four families.
He also told reporters to ask Gen. John Kelly about whether former president Barack Obama called him about his son, who died from a landmine in Afghanistan in 2010.
When asked about that comment Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Kelly was frustrated with the media response to the comment.
“I think that Gen. Kelly is disgusted by the way that this has been politicized and that the focus has become on the process and not the fact that American lives were lost. I think he’s disgusted and frustrated by that,” she said Wednesday.
Trump was also under fire for comments he allegedly made to the widow of Army Sgt. La David T. Johnson, who was one of four soldiers killed in Niger earlier this month, saying “he knew what he signed up for… but when it happens it hurts.”
Rep. Frederica Wilson told the media Trump made the comments Tuesday as Johnson’s body was being returned to his pregnant wife and two kids.
Johnson’s mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the congresswoman’s account was correct.
Trump disputed the account, saying on Twitter Wednesday that he had proof the comments were fabricated. The White House has said there is no recording of the call, but that people were in the room with Trump when it happened.
“The president’s call, as accounted by multiple people in the room, believe that the president was completely respectful, very sympathetic, and expressed the condolences of himself and the rest of the country, and thanked the family for their service, commended them for having an American hero in their family,” Sanders told reporters Wednesday.
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