When a U.S. Army sergeant was killed recently, Donald Trump reportedly made a personal phone call to his grieving father, offered him $25,000 and told him that his staff would start an online fundraiser for the family. The father is now saying that neither the money nor the fundraiser ever came through.
Army Sgt. Dillon Baldridge, 22, and two of his fellow soldiers were killed by an Afghan police officer June 10. The Washington Post reports that Trump called his father, Chris Baldridge, a few weeks after he died. The two men spoke for about 15 minutes, mostly focused on the elder Baldridge’s concerns that his son was shot and killed by someone he was training.
“I said, ‘Me and my wife would rather our son died in trench warfare,’” Baldridge told the Post. “I feel like he got murdered over there.”
The Baldridges’ experience with Trump adds to mounting and disturbing concerns about how the president deals with families and spouses of fallen soldiers.
When the Post reached out to the White House on Wednesday morning, officials there declined to discuss the Baldridges’ situation.
On Wednesday afternoon, however, White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said in a statement: “The check has been sent. It’s disgusting that the media is taking something that should be recognized as a generous and sincere gesture, made privately by the president, and using it to advance the media’s biased agenda.”
No, Lindsay, that’s not what’s happening here. The media simply recognizes that your boss has a troublesome relationship with the truth, and we want to make sure he’s not making empty promises to the families of soldiers who have died in service to this country. The same soldiers, by the way, your boss wants to invoke any time he decides to rail on players in the NFL kneeling during the national anthem.
As the Post notes, it took President Barack Obama 18 months to fulfill a similar promise to the family of Kayla Mueller, who died while being held captive by the Islamic State group in Syria. Obama had promised an undisclosed amount to be used to set up a charity in Mueller’s name, and when ABC News brought attention to it, the money was finally delivered—and Obama called the situation an oversight.
Trump claimed this week that he has “called every family of somebody that’s died, and it’s the hardest call to make.” The Post interviewed 13 of the at least 20 families that have had family members killed in action since Trump became president in January, and at least half of those families said they had not received a phone call from Trump.
In Baldridge’s father’s case, when he expressed his frustration that the $100,000 death gratuity was going to go to his ex-wife—who was his son’s beneficiary—he said the president made him a promise that shocked him.
“He said, ‘I’m going to write you a check out of my personal account for $25,000,’ and I was just floored,” the elder Baldridge told the Post. “I could not believe he was saying that, and I wish I had it recorded because the man did say this. He said, ‘No other president has ever done something like this,’ but he said, ‘I’m going to do it.’ ”
Baldridge told the Post that he has only received a letter of condolence from Trump.
“I opened it up and read it, and I was hoping to see a check in there, to be honest,” the father said. “I know it was kind of farfetched thinking. But I was like, ‘Damn, no check.’ Just a letter saying ‘I’m sorry.’”
Read more at the Washington Post.