Did Trump Really Say Those Things About Dead Marines?
The headline over the bombshell story in the Atlantic magazine exploded on the media and political world like a grenade going off in a battle -- the kind of headline that would certainly give the president’s detractors yet one more reason to detest the man:
“Trump: Americans Who Died in War Are ‘Losers’ and ‘Suckers’”
The story ran under the byline of Jeffrey Goldberg, the magazine’s editor-in chief, a journalist who is no fan of Donald Trump. News organizations all over the world picked up the story.
And in a close election Goldberg’s story could have great influence; it could convince undecided voters to support Mr. Trump’s opponent.
“When President Donald Trump canceled a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018,” the story began, “he blamed rain for the last-minute decision, saying that ‘the helicopter couldn’t fly’ and that the Secret Service wouldn’t drive him there. Neither claim was true.”
Why would Donald Trump concoct a phony story? What was he trying to hide?
According to Goldberg (no relation), “Trump rejected the idea of the visit because he feared his hair would become disheveled in the rain, and because he did not believe it important to honor American war dead, according to four people with firsthand knowledge of the discussion that day. In a conversation with senior staff members on the morning of the scheduled visit, Trump said, ‘Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.’ In a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump referred to the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as ‘suckers’ for getting killed.”
That’s quite an indictment – the commander-in-chief disparaging the memories of brave marines, calling them “losers” and “suckers.” If it weren’t so late in the game, Democrats might try to impeach him for those remarks, whether he actually said them or not.
You’ll notice that there are no names attached to those accusations – just that there were four people who supposedly had “firsthand knowledge” of what the president is alleged to have said.
Why wouldn’t they go on the record? Goldberg says it’s because “They don’t want to be inundated with angry tweets and all the rest.” As the kids say: Whatever!
The president vehemently says it never happened. And since he’s routinely critical of unflattering coverage it’s no surprise that he tweeted that, "The Atlantic Magazine is dying, like most magazines, so they make up a fake story in order to gain some relevance."
And there were others who were on that trip in 2018 who back up the president’s story. They also say it never happened.
John Bolton, Mr. Trump’s national security advisor at the time was there and writes about his trip in his recent memoir, which often describes the president in less than flattering terms. But he makes no mention of anything resembling Goldberg’s account of what happened (though Bolton says he wasn't with the president that entire day and the controversial remarks could have come when he wasn't there).
But Fox News national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin reported that two anonymous former “senior” U.S. officials had confirmed “key parts” of the Atlantic‘s story about the president, but could not confirm “the most salacious” quotes attributed to Mr. Trump. Upon learning of that, President Trump said Fox should fire Griffin.
So, as you might expect, the old controversy over unnamed sources has come to the surface yet again. With less than two months to go before we vote for president, critics are saying the Atlantic had no business publishing such a potentially damaging piece unless Mr. Trump’s accusers were willing to attach their names to the accusation.
“Each time, this is a judgment call,” Goldberg told CNN. “Does the public’s interest in needing this information outweigh the ambiguities or the difficulties of anonymous sourcing? Goldberg continued. “And in this case, I decided that I felt I knew this information well enough from high enough sources and multiple sources that I thought we should put it out.”
Despite that explanation, I wouldn’t bet two cents that he’d publish that same story less than two months before a presidential election if it were Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton or Barrack Obama or any other liberal in the crosshairs – and their accusers refused to be named.
It’s no secret that liberals loathe this president and that includes liberals in the media.
For more than two years they ran with a story about how Donald Trump was colluding with the Russians to throw the 2016 election his way.
It never happened.
At the Democratic Party convention Joe Biden said, "Remember what the President said when asked, he said there were, quote, very fine people on both sides" at that violent rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, before adding that that’s when "I knew I had to run" for president.
That wasn’t true, either – not the way Joe Biden was telling it.
When he was asked about the presence of neo-Nazis at the rally, President Trump did say: "You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides." And during the same press conference, he went on to say "I'm not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally."
Biden has repeated his fake version of what President Trump said several times since the convention – and for the most part journalists let him get away with his accusation.
Democrats have accused the president of stealing mailboxes to make it more difficult for Americans to vote by mail. That’s also not true.
And when Joe Biden deems to answer reporters’ questions, unlike the president he gets softballs tossed his way. I’m waiting for one of them to ask Joe what his favorite color is. Or if he could be a tree, what kind of tree would he be?
Which brings us back to Jeffrey Goldberg. On July 21, 2016 he wrote a piece in the Atlantic that ran under the headline: “It's Official: Hillary Clinton Is Running Against Vladimir Putin” and ended with, “The moral arc of the universe is long, and, if Trump is elected, it will bend in the direction of despotism and darkness.”
Does that prove Goldberg concocted a story to hurt the president? No. But it does tell us is that when a journalist makes public his utter distaste for this president (or any other politician), if he’s going to write a story that accuses him of calling dead marines “losers” and “suckers” less than two months before what looks like a close election, it’s crucial to back up the claim with named sources.
Otherwise it looks like a hit job.
As for the timing of the Atlantic's story: Let's just say it looks suspicious, that maybe Jeffrey Goldberg released the story as a September Surprise to hurt the president. And who knows, maybe those unnamed sources will come forward next month, an October Surprise.
But did Donald Trump actually say those things? I don’t know. But given his long history of nastiness, I wouldn’t put it past him. His denials have the same credibility as the kid with crumbs on his face swearing he didn't take the cookies from the cookie jar. His dishonesty is chronic. But the press also has credibility problems.
Once, we routinely believed what we read in reputable publications. Not anymore. A recent poll by Gallup and the Knight Foundation found that 86 percent of Americans think journalists have a political bias. So in a perverse way it doesn’t matter if the Atlantic story is true or not. People will believe what they choose to believe based on their own feelings about the president – not on what some supposedly objective journalist tells them is true .
That’s how little trust many Americans have in the so-called mainstream media these days.