Donald Trump attacked the media today for questioning his January announcement that he’d raised $6 million for veterans groups through the fundraiser he held instead of attending a Fox News GOP primary debate.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign quickly jumped into the fray as well, highlighting Trump’s record with vets and bringing out retired military members in a key swing state to criticize the presumptive GOP nominee.
After media scrutiny of his January veterans fundraiser and where promised dollars have gone, Trump last week donated $1 million of his own money to a veterans charity. Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said that they had raised $4.5 million, and the $6 million figure was a goal.
“I never thought we were going to raise $1 million when we started, and we ended up doing almost $6 million,” Trump said at a press conference today in New York. “So I have to tell you, the press is so dishonest and so unfair.”
The real-estate mogul said he’s “received phone calls with people crying” over his generosity but “the bad part about the dishonesty of the media is that people like me will be inclined not to do it anymore.”
He also asserted that his humility was, in part, behind the months of questions over the amount raised and the beneficiaries of the funds.
“I’m totally accountable, but I didn’t want to have credit for it. Now, actually, though, what I got was worse than credit, because they were questioning me.”
Jim Acosta of CNN asked Trump if he was “resistant to scrutiny, the kind of scrutiny that comes with running for president of the United States.”
“I like scrutiny, but you know what? When I’ve raise money — excuse me, excuse me. I’ve watched you on television, you’re a real beauty,” he told Acosta. “When I raise money for the veterans and it’s a massive amount of money, find out how much Hillary Clinton has given to the veterans. Nothing… I don’t want the credit for it, but I shouldn’t be lambasted. And remember this. So out of the almost $6 million that was raised, not one penny did I take for administration costs.”
“…I’m only one in the world who could raise almost $6 million for the veterans, have uniform applause by the veterans’ groups and end up being criticized by the press.”
Tom Llamas of ABC asked: “Mr. Trump, writing a million dollar check is incredibly generous. But that night of that Iowa fundraiser, you said you had raised $6 million, you clearly did not. Your critics say you tend to exaggerate, was the amount that great? Is this one example?”
“No. I raised almost $6 million. Some of it didn’t come through. But more money is coming through than didn’t come through. The number is probably going to be, when we finish it, probably going to be over the $6 million,” Trump responded, later referring to “this sleazy guy right over here from ABC, he’s a sleaze in my book.”
“Why am I?” Llamas asked.
“You’re a sleaze, because you know the facts, and you know the facts well,” Trump said before handing the mic off to another person.
Clinton today released a set of proposals targeted at helping military families with issues such as assignments, education and child care. Her campaign separately charged that “after securing the headlines he wanted, it became clear that Trump had not actually delivered on his claims.”
“Trump will surely brag, as he always does, about his supposed generosity and appreciation for our veterans, but nobody should be fooled by this stunt, only completed under immense pressure. The truth is, throughout this campaign and his entire career, he’s shown veterans an incredible amount of disrespect,” her campaign said in a statement.
They also arranged a call for reporters with three Florida veterans and Clinton supporters.
Ret. Rear Adm. Gene Kendall said Trump should “put up or shut up about his absolutely flagrant use of veterans’ goodwill to tout his personal agenda.”
“It wasn’t something that he did willingly, you can rest assured of that,” Kendall charged of the $1 million personal donation. “He’s a fraud and he …continues to operate in support of what’s best for Donald Trump.”
Ret. Brig. Gen. John Douglass, a former assistant secretary of the Navy, stressed that “we can’t afford to have a person like Donald Trump as commander in chief of our armed forces — Trump wouldn’t know the difference between a boomer and a B-52. He has no idea about what it means to serve.”
Douglass was especially critical of Trump’s criticism of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) being captured during the Vietnam War, calling it “despicable” and “indicative of his real views about our veterans.”
“Trump doesn’t have any idea what it’s like to put your life in danger as Sen. McCain has on many occassions; he has no idea what it’s like to go under torture… nor does he have the empathy that is needed to be a world leader.”