WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden declared President Donald Trump “unfit” for the presidency on Friday, delivering an impassioned reaction to a report that Trump — who never served in uniform — allegedly mocked American war dead.
The president and his allies have dismissed the report in The Atlantic as false.
The allegations, sourced anonymously, describe multiple offensive comments by the president toward fallen and captured U.S. service-members, including calling World War I dead at an American military cemetery in France as “losers” and “suckers” in 2018.
The reported comments, many of which were confirmed independently by the AP, are shining a fresh light on Trump’s previous public disparagement of American troops and military families. That opens a new political vulnerability for the president less than two months from Election Day.
Voice cracking, Biden told reporters that “you know in your gut” Trump’s comments, if true, are “deplorable.”
“I’ve just never been as disappointed, in my whole career, with a leader that I’ve worked with, president or otherwise,” Biden added. “If the article is true — and it appears to be, based on other things he’s said — it is absolutely damning. It is a disgrace.”
He added that “the president should humbly apologize to every Gold Star mother and father, to every Blue Star family that he’s denigrated ... Who the heck does he think he is?”
Trump was alleged to have made the comments in November 2018, as he was set to visit the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery during a trip to France. The White House said the visit was scrubbed because foggy weather made the helicopter trip from Paris too risky and a 90-minute drive was deemed infeasible.
Speaking Friday in the Oval Office, Trump denied ever uttering such comments: “It was a terrible thing that somebody could say the kind of things — and especially to me cause I’ve done more for the military than almost anyone, anybody else.”
Biden’s critique was personal. The former vice president often speaks about his pride for his late son Beau’s service in the Delaware Army National Guard. As he spoke, Biden grew angry, raising his voice to rebut Trump’s alleged comments that Marines who died in battle were “suckers” for getting killed.
“When my son was an assistant U.S. attorney and he volunteered to go to Kosovo when the war was going on, as a civilian, he wasn’t a sucker,” Biden declared.
“When my son volunteered to join the United States military as the attorney general, he went to Iraq for a year, won the Bronze Star and other commendations, he wasn’t a sucker!”
Beau Biden died of cancer in 2015.
Trump, who traveled to Pennsylvania on Thursday, told reporters after he returned to Washington that the Atlantic report was “a disgraceful situation” by a “terrible magazine.”
“I would be willing to swear on anything that I never said that about our fallen heroes,” Trump told the reporters, gathered on the tarmac in the dark. “There is nobody that respects them more. No animal — nobody — what animal would say such a thing?”
Trump also denied calling the late Arizona Sen. John McCain, a decorated Navy officer who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, a “loser” after his August 2018 death.
Trump acknowledged Thursday he was “never a fan” of McCain and disagreed with him, but said he still respected him and approved everything to do with his “first-class triple-A funeral” without hesitation because “I felt he deserved it.”
In 2015, shortly after launching his presidential candidacy, Trump publicly blasted McCain, saying “He’s not a war hero.” He added, “I like people who weren’t captured.” At the time, Trump also shared a news article on Twitter calling McCain a “loser.”
“It’s sad the depths that people will go to during a lead-up to a presidential campaign to try to smear somebody,” said White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows Thursday.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told “Fox & Friends” on Friday that he was with the president for a good part of the trip to France. “I never heard him use the words that are described in that article,” Pompeo said.
Asked Friday about possibly seeing Trump when they will both be in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, for the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks next week, Biden said, “I didn’t know he was going until after I announced on my own. Of course.”
Asked if he’d be willing to share a stage with Trump he said “Yes. He’s still the president of the United States of America.”