The press did more for the families of fallen soldiers in a week than Trump has done during his entire presidency.
In the days since Donald Trump was caught lying about his outreach to Gold Star families, reporters have stepped up and pressured him to make good on his promises.
The controversy surrounding Trump’s outreach to the families of fallen soldiers ramped up on Oct. 16, when Trump falsely claimed that previous presidents had not personally reached out to families mourning the loss of a military service member. The next day, Trump claimed in a radio interview that he had contacted “virtually” every family that had lost a military service member this year.
It has since been revealed that Trump was not only lying about his outreach to the families of fallen soldiers, but that he didn’t even have an updated list of the names of those killed or their family members at the time that he made the claim.
In the aftermath of Trump’s brazen lie, reporters have stepped up and reached out to the family members of fallen soldiers to see if Trump has delivered on his promise and to increase the pressure for him to do so.
Over the past week, news outlets including The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and the Associated Press have reached 25 out of 46 families identified as having lost a loved one serving in the military this year. Of those 25 families, 11 said they had not received any form of communication — not a call, nor a letter — from the president.
Many of the families had been told to expect calls that never came, according to The Atlantic:
Two families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan on August 2, Christopher Harris and Jonathon Hunter, were told they should expect a call and never received one. The families of Army Specialist Alvin Levi Stigler Jr. and Sergeant Roshain Euvince Brooks, who died in Iraq in August, did not receive calls.
In the face of this growing scrutiny, the White House is now scrambling to make good on Trump’s broken promises.
Timothy Eckels, Sr., whose son was killed in a collision on Aug. 21 involving the USS John S. McCain, hadn’t heard anything from Trump since then. But on Oct. 20, two days into the controversy over Trump’s neglect of Gold Star families, Eckels suddenly received a rush-delivered package, dated Oct. 18, with a condolence letter from the White House inside.
“Honestly, I feel the letter is reactionary to the media storm brewing over how these things have been handled,” Eckels told The Atlantic, adding that he had spoken with many top military officials along with Sen. John McCain, but had not received any communication from the president until this week.
He wasn’t the only one.
According to The Atlantic:
The family of Corey Ingram, another Navy systems technician who died in the collision on the USS John McCain, also confirmed to The Atlantic they received a rush-delivered letter from the White House on October 20. A third family, of another sailor who perished in the accident, John M. Hoagland III, said they, too, received a rush-delivery letter this week.
In addition the three rush-delivered letters, Trump also mailed a $25,000 check this week to a grieving father to whom he had promised money during a phone call in June.
If not for the hard work of the reporters at these news agencies, it’s unclear if Trump would ever have reached out to these grieving families. Officials told The Atlantic that the delayed response is highly unusual, indicating that it was likely a reaction to public pressure — and that it might have never come at all if the press didn’t ramp up that pressure.
While Trump continues to lash out at the press and demean their work as “fake news,” these steadfast reporters did more for the families of fallen soldiers in a week than Trump has during his entire presidency.