Donald Trump has been called a “deranged animal” by members of former President Barack Obama’s staff for his controversial comments about his predecessor.
At a recent press White House press conference, Mr Trump was questioned about the four American soldiers who were killed in action this month in Niger. Asked why he had not spoken out about the issue, Mr Trump blamed the presidents before him.
“So the traditional way, if you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls [to the families]. A lot of them didn’t make calls,” Mr Trump said. “I like to call when it’s appropriate, when I think I’m able to do it.”
Alyssa Mastromonaco, the former White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, quickly shot back on Twitter.
“[T]hat’s a fucking lie,” she tweeted. “to say president obama (or past presidents) didn’t call the family members of soldiers KIA – he’s a deranged animal.”
Matthew Miller – the Department of Justice’s chief spokesperson under Mr Obama – chimed in, calling the claim “gross” and “slanderous”.
“This is an outrageous and disrespectful lie even by Trump standards,” added Ben Rhodes, Mr Obama’s foreign policy adviser.
Mr Rhodes also pointed to Mr Trump’s feud with the Khan family, tweeting: “Obama never attacked a Gold Star family.”
Khizr and Ghazala Khan lost their son, a US army officer, to a suicide bomber in Iraq 12 years ago. When the family spoke out against Mr Trump, then a candidate for the presidency, he condemned their “vicious attacks” and claimed Hillary Clinton had written their remarks.
Pete Souza, the White House photographer under Mr Obama, also reponded to the President’s recent comments. He posted a photo on Instagram of Mr Obama hugging the parents of an army sergeant who was killed in action.
“This was the first of 52 Medals of Honor, the nation’s highest award for military valour, that President Obama bestowed during his two terms,” Mr Souza wrote on his popular Instagram page. “I also photographed him meeting with hundreds of wounded soldiers, and family members of those killed in action.”
Mr Trump also faced pushback from reporters at the press conference, who asked him to back up his statement. The President walked back his comments slightly.
“A lot of Presidents don’t; they write letters,” he said. “I do a combination of both. President Obama I think probably did sometimes, and maybe sometimes he didn’t. I don’t know. That’s what I was told.”