US President Donald Trump falsely claimed that Barack Obama and past presidents did not call the grieving families of fallen soldiers and Twitter has viciously slammed him for it. When asked on Monday (16 October) about why he hadn't spoken publicly about the killing of four Green Berets in Niger two weeks ago, Trump said he had penned personal letters to their families over the weekend and had planned to call them this week.
"The toughest calls I have to make are the calls where this happens – soldiers are killed," Trump said. "It's a very difficult thing. Now it gets to a point where you make four or five of them in one day, it's a very, very tough day. For me, that's by far the toughest.
"So the traditional way, if you look at [former] president Obama and other presidents, most of them didn't make calls, a lot of them didn't make calls," he asserted during a news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House. "I like to call when it's appropriate, when I think I'm able to do it."
However, Obama and other former US presidents did make calls to, met with and sent letters to the families of fallen soldiers killed on duty.
When pressed further about the claim later in the news conference, Trump said, "I don't know if he [Obama] did. I was told he didn't often, and a lot of presidents don't; they write letters. I do a combination of both.
"President Obama, I think, probably did sometimes and maybe sometimes he didn't," Trump continued. "That's what I was told. All I can do is ask my generals."
Trump's "outlandish" remarks immediately drew furious criticism from Democratic lawmakers, Obama's former staff members and social media users with many calling the president an "envious" and "pathological liar".
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later responded to the massive backlash, saying that the president was not "criticising predecessors, but stating a fact".
"When American heroes make the ultimate sacrifice, presidents pay their respects," Huckabee said. "Sometimes they call, sometimes they send a letter, other times they have the opportunity to meet family members in person. This president, like his predecessors, has done each of these. Individuals claiming former presidents, such as their bosses, called each family of the fallen, are mistaken."
Ben Rhodes, a former foreign policy adviser to president Barack Obama, tweeted, "This is an outrageous and disrespectful lie even by Trump standards. Also: Obama never attacked a Gold Star family."
"That's a f**king lie," former Obama deputy chief of staff for operations Alyssa Mastromonaco tweeted. "To say president Obama (or past presidents) didn't call the family members of soldiers KIA – he's a deranged animal."
"Claiming Obama didn't call families of deceased soldiers is classic Trump," Fuller House producer and writer Bryan Behar added. "It's a flat-out, motherf**king lie hiding behind 'I've been told'."
"Is anyone surprised?" one Twitter user wrote. "The man lies as easily as he breathes and, more frighteningly, he believes what he says. This man is mentally-ill, why can't we remove him?"