A report published Thursday by The Atlantic cited anonymous sources claiming that President Donald Trump didn’t want to visit the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018 because the troops there who died in battle were “losers” and “suckers. The media has largely reported on this story as though it were true or at least likely to be true.
“The Atlantic Magazine is dying, like most magazines, so they make up a fake story in order to gain some relevance,” Trump tweeted on Friday. “Story already refuted, but this is what we are up against. Just like the Fake Dossier. You fight and fight, and then people realize it was a total fraud!”
Even CNN’s Brian Stelter seemed to acknowledge that the claims of anonymous sources aren’t as convincing.
“But it is also incumbent on the sources, on the people that are talking to [Atlantic editor-in-chief Jeffrey] Goldberg, on the people that are talking to other outlets — the president’s denying it explicitly, so it’s put up or shut up time,” Stelter said. “Why aren’t these people coming forward and putting their names to these quotes?”
Perhaps because it’s a lot easier to lie when your name and reputation aren’t on the line. But there are at least five witnesses who have gone on the record disputing the allegations made in The Atlantic.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump’s former press secretary, called The Atlantic story B.S. on Twitter, “I was actually there and one of the people [who were] part of the discussion – this never happened. I have sat in the room when our President called family members after their sons were killed in action and it was heart-wrenching,” she said. “These were some of the moments I witnessed the President show his heart and demonstrate how much he respects the selfless and courageous men and women of our military. I am disgusted by this false attack.”
These were some of the moments I witnessed the President show his heart and demonstrate how much he respects the selfless and courageous men and women of our military. I am disgusted by this false attack.
— Sarah Huckabee Sanders (@SarahHuckabee) September 4, 2020
Dan Scavino, White House deputy chief of staff for communications was also with the president that day. “I was with POTUS in France, with Sarah, and have been at his side throughout it all. Complete lies by ‘anonymous sources’ that were ‘dropped’ just as he begins to campaign (and surge). A disgraceful attempt to smear POTUS, 60 days before the Presidential Election! Disgusting!!”
I was with POTUS in France, with Sarah, and have been at his side throughout it all. Complete lies by “anonymous sources” that were “dropped” just as he begins to campaign (and surge). A disgraceful attempt to smear POTUS, 60 days before the Presidential Election! Disgusting!! https://t.co/mQfCNUlyZm
— Dan Scavino (@DanScavino) September 4, 2020
Jordan Karem, personal aide to President Trump, also denied the allegations made in The Atlantic story. “This is not even close to being factually accurate. Plain and simple, it just never happened.”
This is not even close to being factually accurate. Plain and simple, it just never happened 🤷♂️ https://t.co/8YZlWS83I3
— Jordan Karem (@JordanKarem1) September 3, 2020
He tweeted about the allegations again, saying, “I was next to @POTUS the whole day! The President was greatly disappointed when told we couldn’t fly there. He was incredibly eager to honor our Fallen Heroes.”
Again, this is 100% false. I was next to @POTUS the whole day! The President was greatly disappointed when told we couldn’t fly there. He was incredibly eager to honor our Fallen Heroes. https://t.co/8YZlWS83I3
— Jordan Karem (@JordanKarem1) September 4, 2020
Also present during the event was Trump’s former deputy White House press secretary, Hogan Gidley, who called the allegations “disgusting, grotesque, reprehensible lies.”
“I was there in Paris and the President never said those things,” Gidley said. “In fact, he would never even think such vile thoughts because I know from firsthand knowledge that President Trump absolutely loves, respects, and reveres the brave men and women of the United States military. He always has and always will. These weak, pathetic, cowardly background ‘sources’ do not have the courage or decency to put their names to these false accusations because they know how completely ludicrous they are. It’s sickening that they would hide in the shadows to knowingly try and hurt the morale of our great military simply for an attack on a political opponent.”
My response to the horrible lies from anonymous “sources” in the Atlantic: pic.twitter.com/uHtgJvrwCb
— J. Hogan Gidley (@JHoganGidley) September 4, 2020
White House Senior Advisor Steven Miller called the story a “despicable lie.”
“The president deeply wanted to attend the memorial event in question and was deeply displeased by the bad weather call,” Miller said in an interview with The Washingon Examiner. “The next day, he spoke at Suresnes American Cemetery in the pouring rain and refused an umbrella. No one has a bigger, more loving, or more loyal heart for American veterans and fallen heroes than our president.”
But perhaps the most convincing evidence that The Atlantic’s absurd story is completely false comes from a rather unlikely source: Former National Security Advisor John Bolton. Bolton is someone who undeniably has had an axe to grind with Trump and he even wrote about the event at which Trump allegedly made those comments in his anti-Trump memoir, but made no mention of them.
— Byron York (@ByronYork) September 4, 2020
While Trump’s supporters have countered many claims in Bolton’s memoir, it’s beyond dispute that, had Trump actually made the remarks alleged in The Atlantic‘s smear piece, Bolton would have had every incentive to include them in his description of the events.
Documents released as the result of a FOIA request also debunked the allegation that weather wasn’t the true reason behind his canceled visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery.
On that Atlantic Story – @JeffreyGoldberg and his "four sources" claim Trump's helicopter flight to the US/French cemetery wasn't cancelled due to weather.
FOIA docs prove this to be false.
Their "sources" are failing basic fact checks – making them essentially worthless. pic.twitter.com/wAa7FrSxoW
— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) September 4, 2020
Despite the story being debunked, former Vice President Joe Biden pounced on the anonymous allegations. “When my son volunteered and joined the United States military as the attorney general and went to Iraq for a year, won the Bronze Star and other commendations, he wasn’t a ‘sucker,'” Biden said Friday. “The servicemen and women he served with, particularly those who did not come home, were not losers.”
“Quite frankly, if what is written in The Atlantic is true, it is disgusting. It affirms what most of us believe to be true — that Donald Trump is not fit to be the commander in chief,” Biden added.
Rather than move on to address other issues, Biden pressed on as though the allegations were true. “President Trump has demonstrated he has no sense of service, no loyalty to any cause other than himself. If I am honored of being the next commander in chief, I will ensure that our American heroes know I will have their backs.”
Joe Biden should apologize to President Trump for being so desperate as to rely on a debunked story based on anonymous sources to launch an attack.
Matt Margolis is the author of the new book Airborne: How The Liberal Media Weaponized The Coronavirus Against Donald Trump, and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis