MSNBC screenshot with John Kelly, Trump's former chief of staff, with a NBC News headline: "John Kelly confirms Trump privately disparaged US service members and veterans

The story of Trump insulting service members was confirmed by Trump's own chief of staff. Right-wing media are still denying it.

After The Atlantic reported in 2020 that former President Donald Trump had disparaged fallen soldiers as “suckers” and “losers” during a trip to Paris in 2018, right-wing media erupted to protect the former president ahead of the 2020 election. Fox News and other pro-Trump media outlets denied the reporting and attacked The Atlantic's sources, despite a former Trump administration official and other news outlets (including Fox News) confirming Trump's comments. Right-wing media continue to call the report “fake news” in 2024.

  • In September 2020, The Atlantic published a report that Trump canceled a visit to honor American war dead, calling them “losers” and “suckers”

    In 2018, former President Donald Trump canceled a visit to honor American war dead at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris, blaming the rain for the cancellation. However, The Atlantic reported:

    Trump rejected the idea of the visit because he feared his hair would become disheveled in the rain, and because he did not believe it important to honor American war dead, according to four people with firsthand knowledge of the discussion that day. In a conversation with senior staff members on the morning of the scheduled visit, Trump said, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” In a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump referred to the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as “suckers” for getting killed.

  • The report has been confirmed independently by other outlets, including Fox News correspondent Jennifer Griffin and former Trump chief of staff John Kelly

    • Hours after the Atlantic report’s publication, the Associated Press independently confirmed Trump’s 2018 remarks. “A senior Defense Department official with firsthand knowledge of events and a senior U.S. Marine Corps officer who was told about Trump’s comments confirmed some of the remarks to The Associated Press, including the 2018 cemetery comments,” the AP reported. [AP, 9/3/20]

    • The Washington Post sourced “a former senior administration official” who confirmed that Trump “frequently made disparaging comments about veterans and soldiers missing in action, referring to them at times as ‘losers.’” [Washington Post, 9/4/20]

    • Fox News national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin corroborated multiple details of The Atlantic’s reporting in a series of tweets and in a segment on Fox News, which resulted in Trump calling for her firing. Griffin tweeted on September 4: “Two former sr Trump admin officials confirm .@JeffreyGoldberg reporting that President Trump disparaged veterans and did not want to drive to honor American war dead at Aisne-Marne Cemetery outside Paris.” On Fox News, Griffin reported that her source deemed Trump’s disparagement of fallen soldiers a “character flaw.” Trump then lashed out at Griffin and Fox News itself on Twitter: “Jennifer Griffin should be fired for this kind of reporting. Never even called us for comment. @FoxNews is gone!” [Media Matters, 9/4/20; Fox News, 9/5/20; Axios, 9/5/20]

    • In October 2023, former Trump chief of staff John Kelly confirmed Trump’s “suckers” and “losers” comments to CNN in a lengthy statement. Kelly called Trump “a person that thinks those who defend their country in uniform, or are shot down or seriously wounded in combat, or spend years being tortured as POWs are all ‘suckers’ because ‘there is nothing in it for them.’ A person that did not want to be seen in the presence of military amputees because ‘it doesn’t look good for me.’ A person who demonstrated open contempt for a Gold Star family – for all Gold Star families – on TV during the 2016 campaign, and rants that our most precious heroes who gave their lives in America’s defense are ‘losers’ and wouldn’t visit their graves in France.” [CNN, 10/3/23]

  • Right-wing media responded by denouncing the story, attacking anonymous sources and The Atlantic, and accusing Democrats of trying to distract from their failures. They’re still denying the story today.

    • The morning after the article came out, Fox & Friends defended its most important viewer. Ret. Gen. Jack Keane claimed that Trump actually has “reverence for the military.”. Co-host Pete Hegseth complained that it’s “always anonymous sources.” [Media Matters, 9/4/20]

    • Then-chief White House correspondent John Roberts denied the veracity of the report: “To a person, all three of these people have said the president never used the words ‘suckers’ or ‘losers’ to describe U.S. troops who have either died in that war or any other war. Those words were just never used in that meeting when they were discussing whether or not the president would go out there.” [Fox News, The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino, 9/4/20]

    • Right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh claimed that the Atlantic report of Trump disrespecting fallen troops was a plot to distract from “the Pelosi hair salon story.” [Premiere Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 9/4/20]

    • Hegseth claimed that “the leftist media created this story because they need to change the narrative or create a new narrative” and attacked the author, The Atlantic editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg, for being a Democrat. [Fox News, Fox & Friends Saturday, 9/5/20]

    • Fox’s Jeanine Pirro called the claim an “absurdity” and discredited the report for using anonymous sources, despite the fact that the story was confirmed by colleague Jennifer Griffin. [Mediaite, 9/5/20]

    • After Fox’s Jessica Tarlov cited multiple report confirming the Atlantic story including Jennifer Griffin’s, chief political anchor Bret Baier interrupted with “a caveat”: “I agree with you, there are elements of that reporting that Jennifer confirmed from sources, but … there are other elements that appear to be pretty — to push back pretty hard.” [Mediaite, 9/6/20]

    • Immediately after Jennifer Griffin reconfirmed her report, Fox contributor Mike Huckabee vehemently denied that Trump insulted fallen soldiers and accused the anonymous sources of attempting to influence the election: “If these sources are so dang good, trot them out in front of a microphone and a camera. And if they’re not willing to put their name and face in the middle of an election, which they’re trying to influence, then they have no right to be heard. … Until we know that, I think all of this stuff is just a bunch of hogwash.” [Fox News, America’s News Headquarters, 9/7/20]

    • Former The Five co-host Geraldo Rivera called the report “a hit job.” “What the Democrats are doing – and it’s so obvious to me – they can’t attack the economy, so what they’re doing is, they are conjuring up a story that the president called G.I.s losers.” [Fox News, The Five, 9/7/20]

    • Former Fox host Lou Dobbs attacked Fox News’ report confirming the Atlantic article that claimed Trump disrespected military veterans. [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 9/8/20]

    • Fox host Laura Ingraham claimed the Atlantic story corroborated by Jennifer Griffin about Trump insulting troops is “now-debunked.” [Media Matters, 9/8/20]

    • One America News Network correspondent Chanel Rion smeared The Atlantic as “a privately-funded fiction factory for the DNC” and baselessly accused Atlantic editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg of “invent[ing] the story at the behest of Atlantic leadership.” [OANN, Wall to Wall with Greta, 9/9/20]

    • In a phone interview with Trump, Fox News host Sean Hannity touted Trump’s defense policy and gave him an opportunity to deny The Atlantic’s reporting, which he did. “It’s a total lie, it’s total disinformation,” Trump told Hannity, “They made up the story.” [Fox News, Hannity, 9/9/20]

    • On Fox News, former Trump White House press secretary and current Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied Trump’s comments and called the anonymous sources “cowards.” [Fox News, MediaBuzz, 9/13/20]

    • In an op-ed for, Fox News contributor Deroy Murdock called The Atlantic’s reporting a “disgusting fabrication” and accused the Obama administration of running “a veritable killing field for vets.” “The Atlantic got it perfectly backwards: As 700-plus vets attested in an open letter, President Trump has honored and benefited them and their brothers and sisters in uniform. Meanwhile, Obama-Biden treated America’s veterans like losers and suckers,” Murdock wrote. [, 9/13/20]

    • In April 2024, Newsmax host Greg Kelly said, “The people who need insults and a little bit of denigrating are actually the generals who made this story up and leaked it to the fake news.” [Newsmax, Greg Kelly Reports, 4/17/24]

    • Ben Shapiro claimed the Atlantic story had been “largely debunked” and “denied by pretty much everybody.” [The Daily Wire, The Ben Shapiro Show, 6/28/24]

    • Anchor Martha MacCallum interrupted Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), who was pointing out that Trump lied about not calling fallen soldiers “suckers and losers.” MacCallum said, “You know he has completely denied. Yeah, he’s completely denied.” [Fox News, The Story, 6/28/24]