Several Americans received something unexpected from the White House this week: a rush-delivered condolence letter from President Donald Trump written to the loved ones of people who died in military service.
After a week of controversy that pivoted around whether Trump — as he claimed — actually did personally contact every bereaved family, The Atlantic confirmed that some received expedited condolence letters in the days after the president’s remarks.
While Timothy Eckels Sr. had heard from Sen. John McCain and Defense Secretary James Mattis after his son died aboard the U.S.S. John S. McCain on Aug. 21, he’d heard nothing from the president — until Oct. 20, when a UPS package containing a condolence letter arrived at his home.
The package, according to The Atlantic, was dated October 18, a day after Trump said in an interview, “I think I’ve called every family of someone who’s died.” Trump had also wrongly claimed that past presidents, including Barack Obama, didn’t call mourning families.
That lie triggered an outpouring of anger from former members of the Obama administration.
“Honestly, I feel the letter is reactionary to the media storm brewing over how these things have been handled,” Eckels said. He described the letter as “respectful” and “genuine.” The Atlantic also identified two other families that received expedited letters this week.
The White House declined to answer questions from The Atlantic about how families had been contacted and comforted. The Associated Press found that at least 10 relatives of the 43 service members who’ve died this year had not received a phone call or a letter.
The administration has been on the defensive since a Democratic congresswoman from Florida shared details from Trump’s condolence call to the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, who was killed earlier this month in Niger. Rep. Frederica Wilson claimed Trump said, “he knew what he signed up for, but I guess it still hurt” during the call.
Trump, of course, didn’t hold back on Twitter, calling Wilson “wacky” and a “disaster” for Democrats.
Wacky Congresswoman Wilson is the gift that keeps on giving for the Republican Party, a disaster for Dems. You watch her in action & vote R!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 22, 2017
Meanwhile, Johnson’s mother, who heard the call as well, confirmed Wilson’s account.
“President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband,” Cowanda Jones-Johnson, told The Washington Post.