Fact Check: Biden Claims Gen. Milley Said All Trump ‘Ever Wants to Do Is Divide People’

US President Donald Trump walks with US Attorney General William Barr (L), US Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper (C), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark A. Milley (R), and others from the White House to visit St. John's Church after the area was cleared of people protesting …
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

CLAIM: Former Vice President Joe Biden claimed during the first presidential debate that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley said that President Trump wants to divide people, not unite them.

VERDICT: FALSE. Milley — who was the only currently serving general to accompany Trump on his walk to the church — has never said that all Trump “ever wants to do is divide people, not unite people at all.”

Biden said:

When Mr. Floyd was killed, there was a peaceful protest in front of the White House. What did he do? He came out of his bunker, had the military use tear gas on them so he could walk across to a church and hold up a Bible. And then what happened after that? The Bishop of that very church said that it was a disgrace. The general who was with him said all he ever wants to do is divide people, not unite people at all. This is a president who has used everything as a dog whistle, to try to generate racists hatred, racist division.

Milley did apologize later for participating in the walk, saying: “I should not have been there. My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics.”

What Biden may have done is confuse Milley with Trump’s former Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis.

Mattis criticized Trump after the walk in an op-ed in The Atlantic that said: “Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us.”

It is possible Biden meant to refer to Mattis in the first place, but could not remember his name, and referred to him as the “general who was with him.” Mattis was a civilian when he served as defense secretary for Trump, however.

Their relationship started on positive ground, but deteriorated as they split on many issues, particularly Trump’s desire to draw down U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan.

 

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