The pushback against The Atlantic’s story about Donald Trump calling America’s war dead “losers” is picking up steam. A top aide to John Kelly, former chief of staff to the president and former Homeland Security secretary, says that the story is false. While Kelly himself maintains his silence over the raging controversy, one of his chief aides, Deputy Chief of Staff Zach Fuentes, says he was present for all the conversations with Trump and Kelly and never once heard the president utter anything disparaging about America’s war dead.
Fuentes also told Fox News he is not the source for the Atlantic article. He said he was in the room for all of the conversations regarding the trip to the Aisne-Marne cemetery, and that he would know what was and wasn’t said.
Fuentes originally gave his statement to Breitbart News. In that statement, Fuentes gives perhaps the strongest argument debunking The Atlantic story.
Fuentes — who worked under then-chief of staff John Kelly — also claimed to Breitbart that his former boss would not have tolerated such disdain for the armed forces, even from the president.
“Honestly, do you think General Kelly would have stood by and let ANYONE call fallen Marines losers?” he told the publication.
Later in the afternoon, Trump mentioned Fuentes during a press briefing, saying he was “very happy” that he spoke up in Trump’s defense.
Former National Security Advisor John Bolton called the story “simply false.”
“According to what that article said, the president made disparaging remarks about soldiers and people buried in the cemetery in connection with the decision for him not to go to the ceremony that was planned that afternoon, and that was simply false,” Bolton said.
“I don’t know who told the author that, but that was false.”
Bolton, definitely no friend to Donald Trump, said the issue was the weather. “‘The main issue was whether or not weather conditions permitted the president to go out to the cemetery,’ Bolton, who was in the room at the time, recalled.”
Also weighing in on Trump’s side was another person who was in the room during the discussions, U.S. Ambassador to France Jamie McCourt.
Ambassador McCourt was there the day President Trump’s team called off the trip to the cemetery at Belleau Wood because of inclement weather. She is the latest U.S. official who was actually present at the event to publicly deny the Atlantic’s account of events, which is based entirely on anonymous sources.
The Federalist’s Christopher Bedford slammed the Atlantic story (written by Jeffrey Goldberg) as “a badly sourced, difficult-to-confirm, belief-stretching story about President Donald Trump” and blamed the publishing of the story on “poor adherence to journalistic practices made it all possible.”
Bedford pointed to ludicrous sourcing, “confirmation bias,” and “the echo chamber” as reasons Goldberg erred in publishing the story. Those all may be true. But Goldberg’s ideological animus and personal dislike of Trump may also have had something to do with publishing the story.
Jeffrey Goldberg is the editor in chief at one of the oldest and most prestigious opinion magazines in the country. That he would allow ideology to threaten the credibility of a 168-year-old publication is almost beyond belief. Or perhaps, the anti-Trump hysteria has gotten so bad on the left that even if the story turns out to have been the figment of someone’s imagination, Goldberg and the Atlantic will continue to thrive. They will suffer few consequences for such a flagrant breach of ethics and journalistic standards. The rest of the media will decry The Atlantic’s careless errors and then move on. There will be no calls to boycott or replace Goldberg.
The more people who debunk the article, the more steadfastly Goldberg will stand behind the story. For those of us who still respect journalists and journalism, it’s painful to watch.