The White House Is Using John Kelly’s Dead Son to Criticize Obama

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President Trump doubled down on his assertion that his predecessor didn’t call the families of fallen soldiers, citing the death of his chief of staff’s son in Afghanistan.

Speaking with Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade on Tuesday, Trump again suggested that President Obama didn’t call military families, a claim that members of the Obama Administration had rebutted.

He then referenced White House Chief of Staff John Kelly’s son, Robert Michael Kelly, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2010 at the age of 29.

“Now, as far as other representatives, I don’t know. I mean, you could ask General Kelly did he get a call from Obama,” he continued. “You could ask other people, I don’t know what Obama’s policy was. I write letters and I also call.”

The remarks thrust Kelly’s son in the spotlight, leading to multiple stories about Obama’s response to Kelly’s loss.

Obama’s office declined to comment. But in May 2011, the Obamas held a breakfast for Gold Star families who had lost soldiers overseas. A person familiar with the breakfast confirmed to TIME that Kelly and his wife sat with then-First Lady Michelle Obama at the event.

In the past, Kelly has avoided talking about his son’s death, telling a Marine officer introducing him in a speech not to mention it and writing to the Washington Post that he did not want to draw too much attention to it.

“We are only one of 5,500 American families who have suffered the loss of a child in this war,” he wrote in an e-mail to the Post for that article. “The death of my boy simply cannot be made to seem any more tragic than the others.”

He had a similar response to the Boston Globe. “We are not inclined to make ourselves out to be any different, just because I’m a lieutenant general in the Marines,” he said.

Trump made the initial claim that Obama did not call the families of fallen soldiers when he was asked if he was going to call the four U.S. Army special operations commandos killed in an ambush in Niger earlier this month. Tuesday evening, the White House said that Trump had placed these calls to the family members and offered his condolences.



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