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President Biden and former President Donald Trump.
President Biden and former President Donald Trump. Getty Images

Biden leans into allegations of Trump disparaging U.S. troops

The more President Biden leans into allegations that Donald Trump disparaged fallen U.S. troops, the more John Kelly’s confirmation of the story matters.


It was in early September 2020, as early voting was poised to begin in several states, when The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg published a staggering report on Donald Trump, his denigration of those who serve in the military, and his condemnation of fallen American heroes as “suckers” and “losers.”

In fact, according to the report, when the-then Republican president canceled a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018, his decision was motivated in part by his indifference to honoring Americans who died in combat. Trump reportedly said at the time, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” In a separate conversation on the same trip, according to The Atlantic’s account, Trump referred to the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as “suckers” for getting killed.

President Joe Biden brought this up during an appearance in Pittsburgh yesterday at the United Steelworkers headquarters.

“... I was reminded of what my opponent said in Paris not too long ago. They asked him if he would go visit American gravesites. He said, no, he wouldn’t do it, because they were all ‘suckers’ and ‘losers.’ I’m not making that up. His staff who was with him acknowledge it today. ‘Suckers’ and ‘losers.’”

Two hours earlier, during a Q&A with reporters at Wilkes-Barre Scranton International Airport, the Democratic incumbent pointed to the same anecdote.

“... Trump refused to go up to the memorial for veterans in Paris, and he said they were a bunch of ‘suckers’ and ‘losers.’ To me, that is such a disqualifying assertion made by a president — ‘suckers’ and ‘losers.’ The guys who saved civilization in the 1940s — ‘suckers’ and ‘losers.’”

What's more, Biden told the same story during an appearance a day earlier in his original hometown of Scranton.

After that event, the Republican National Committee described the story as a “hoax” that has been “debunked.”

There’s quite a bit of evidence pointing in the opposite direction.

After the original Atlantic piece was first published, much of the reporting in the article was corroborated by related reporting from the Associated Press, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and even Fox News.

But it was six months ago when the story took an important turn when retired Gen. John Kelly, who served as Trump’s longest-serving White House chief of staff, confirmed the story with on-the-record comments to CNN.

“What can I add that has not already been said?” Kelly said in October 2023. Referring to his former boss, Kelly added, “A person that thinks those who defend their country in uniform, or are shot down or seriously wounded in combat, or spend years being tortured as POWs are all ‘suckers’ because ‘there is nothing in it for them.’ A person that did not want to be seen in the presence of military amputees because ‘it doesn’t look good for me.’ A person who demonstrated open contempt for a Gold Star family — for all Gold Star families — on TV during the 2016 campaign, and rants that our most precious heroes who gave their lives in America’s defense are ‘losers’ and wouldn’t visit their graves in France.

“A person who is not truthful regarding his position on the protection of unborn life, on women, on minorities, on evangelical Christians, on Jews, on working men and women,” Kelly continued. “A person that has no idea what America stands for and has no idea what America is all about. A person who cavalierly suggests that a selfless warrior who has served his country for 40 years in peacetime and war should lose his life for treason — in expectation that someone will take action. A person who admires autocrats and murderous dictators. A person that has nothing but contempt for our democratic institutions, our Constitution, and the rule of law.

“There is nothing more that can be said,” Kelly concluded. “God help us.”

The idea that the story is a “hoax” that’s been “debunked” appears very difficult to believe.

This post updates our related earlier coverage.