CNN and the rest of the mainstream media would have us believe that President Donald Trump called the widow of the late Sgt. La David Johnson to abuse her by telling her that her husband bore responsibility for his own death — that “he knew what he signed up for,” in the words of Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL), who was somehow present in a limousine when the call was taken on a speakerphone.
It is an entirely bizarre premise that could only be believed by those blinded by their hatred for Trump — including Wilson, who has been pushing for Trump’s impeachment.
Jake Tapper is among the conspiratorially-minded. That became clear during Wednesday’s edition of CNN’s The Lead, in which he led the show with a recap of Trump’s supposed history of “attacking Gold Star families,” as the chyron read, beginning with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and continuing through the infamous Khizr Khan.
What Tapper conveniently failed to remember is that in each of these cases, the families attacked Trump first in a nakedly political fashion. McCain began the feud when called Trump supporters “crazies” in July 2015. Khan waved a Constitution at Trump from the rostrum at the Democratic National Convention. And now Johnson is being used by Democrats to attack Trump — turning what was, at worst, a misunderstanding into a political axe.
If Trump said anything like what he is being accused of having said — and he and his staff deny it — then it is far more likely that he was expressing admiration for the soldier rather than admonishing his family. Sgt. La David Johnson knew the risks of what he was undertaking, and he faced them bravely in a way that few others would. That is the most reasonable interpretation of what the commander-in-chief may have said, or tried to say.
Yet Trump’s opponents are exploiting Johnson’s death, and the death of his three comrades, to dent Trump — even as he scores one of his biggest military successes thus far, with the fall of the so-called Islamic State in its Raqqa stronghold. CNN repeatedly ran a clip of a widow and bereaved child greeting the flag-draped coffin of Sgt. Johnson as if to suggest that Trump was responsible for the pain they were feeling, and perhaps the death itself.
These are the same people who conveniently forgot military casualties when they happened during the Obama administration — and they happened in abundance. Many more American soldiers were killed in Afghanistan on Obama’s watch than during the two terms of George W. Bush. And yet, under Bush, every soldier’s death was treated as a rebuke to the administration. Under Obama, Gold Star families were largely ignored by the media.
Trump could have called the families of the soldiers who fell in Niger sooner. And it was wrong to say at his press conference earlier in the week that “if you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls.” Later in the same press conference, he walked that back somewhat: “I was told that he didn’t often.”
That is probably true, given the thousands who died, though people like Attorney General Eric Holder have been pointing to every individual example of Obama honoring Gold Star families as if it proves he always did so. (We know what Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the bereaved families of the men who died in Benghazi — that they were killed in retaliation for an obscure anti-Islamic YouTube video, rather than in a planned terror attack — and it was one of the worst and most cynical lies ever told by any administration to the families of the fallen.)
It took Holder ten months to apologize to the family of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, who died in Holder’s botched Operation Fast and Furious. And Holder only apologized after being publicly exposed for never having done so.
Regardless, the media’s latest attack on Trump marks a new low. It requires us to disbelieve the evidence of what we have seen with our own eyes after nine months of Trump as commander-in-chief — that he cares deeply about those who serve in the military and law enforcement, and particularly for the families of the fallen. This is nothing more than a smear campaign, specifically aimed at dividing the country and distracting from the victory in Syria.
When Trump first called the media the “enemy of the people,” it was somewhat shocking. And it remains unfair to those journalists who are committed to the truth. But those pushing this story are certainly earning the epithet.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.
This post has been updated to indicate that the coffin was that of Sgt. Johnson, and to correct Rep. Frederica Wilson’s home state.