It all started on Monday. President Trump caught White House correspondents by surprise when he called for an unscheduled press conference in the Rose Garden following his private lunch with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. During that press conference, the president covered a litany of issues and took questions from the media.
One of the questions that President Trump was asked concerned the death of four U.S. soldiers in the African country of Niger. Initial reports have stated the group of 12 Army Green Berets was ambushed by 50 ISIS-affiliated militants. Not all of the details are known and an investigation is ongoing.
Sara Murray, CNN's White House Correspondent, asked, "Why haven't we heard anything from you so far about the soldiers that were killed in Niger?" This was a fair question to ask as Americans want to understand what happened and why U.S. servicemen and women are deployed to nations like Niger in the first place.
President Trump responded to the question by saying he had written letters over the weekend to the families and that those letters had already been mailed or would be sent out that evening. But the president did not stop there. President Trump went on to say that he would call the grieving families later after more time had passed and stated he "traditionally likes to call" unlike his predecessors.
What should have been a moment for the president to explain how he was going to honor the four fallen heroes and console the grieving families they left behind turned into an unnecessary political jab at former presidents. According to President Trump, who supposedly heard this from his generals, former President Obama did not call the families of slain soldiers. That statement was easily fact-checkable and was deemed a lie from the get-go.
Reports that surfaced the following day stated President Trump had called the family of Sgt. La David Johnson. Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL), who was listening to the president's phone call to the family, said the comments President Trump made were inappropriate for a mourning wife. While many people were skeptical of the reports, Sgt. Johnson's mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, confirmed the story by saying "[President Trump did] disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband."
Now the floodgates have opened as more families are coming out with their stories of how the president addressed the sacrifice made by their loved ones. One father stated that President Trump offered to start an online fundraiser for the family and give them a $25,000 check, but it never happened. White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters, however, said the check had been sent and that the media was merely trying to advance its agenda against the president.
Other families that have lost loved ones said they have yet to receive a phone call or a letter from the president.
Regardless of whether the president has reached out to these families or not (he should do so and honor them all in some manner), the media and president should not turn those who gave their lives defending the country and their families into political footballs.
It cannot be denied that this all started when President Trump, rather than focusing on those who deserved attention and recognition, drew undue attention to himself and his criticisms of his predecessors. Democrats and the media have made it worse by continuing to run headlines. It's time to remember and honor the heroes America lost - Sgt. La David Johnson, Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright - and support their grieving families. To do that, it has to start at the top.