“What can I add that has not already been said?” Kelly wrote in a statement to CNN anchor Jake Tapper. “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.”
Kelly’s statement backed up years of reporting in outlets like The Atlantic and books by New Yorker and New York Times journalists. One story, reported by The Atlantic in 2020, described an incident in 2018 when Trump while visiting France, said he didn’t want to visit the graves of American soldiers buried outside Paris because they were ‘losers.’ Kelly’s statement confirmed the reporting on Monday.
“Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers,” Trump reportedly said according to The Atlantic, later calling the 1,800 Marines killed during the bloody Battle of Belleau Wood “suckers” for dying in action. Before serving in the Trump administration, Kelly was a general in the Marine Corps. the Battle of Belleau Wood is considered to be a foundational chapter in Marine mythology.
Spectrum News has reached out to Kelly for comment.
Trump’s presidential campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Spectrum News, but initially responded to CNN by attacking retired Joint Chiefs of Staff General Chairman Mark Milley before adding on Tuesday that “John Kelly has totally clowned himself with these debunked stories he’s made up because he didn’t serve his president well while working as chief of staff.”
According to Kelly and reporting by journalists chronicling Trump, the former president — who never served in the military and received draft deferments five times during the Vietnam War — told Kelly he didn’t want wounded veterans at a military parade and asked “I don’t get it. What was in it for them?” about soldiers who died in Afghanistan and Iraq and were buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
According to Milley, Trump also tried to bar a wounded Army captain from public appearances after seeing the officer — who lost his leg to an IED attack in Afghanistan after five combat tours — sing “God Bless America” at a Virginia military base. The commander-in-chief reportedly said, “No one wants to see that, the wounded.”
In his statement, Kelly went on to describe Trump as “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.’”
He also said Trump was not truthful about his true positions “on the protection of unborn life, on women, on minorities, on evangelical Christians, on Jews, on working men and women.”
While evangelical Christians helped elevate Trump to the White House and continue to support him in overwhelming numbers — with nearly three in 10 white evangelicals believing Trump was anointed by God, according to one recent poll — he reportedly insulted adherents behind closed doors and berated evangelical leaders for insufficient loyalty earlier this year.
While Kelly did not get into specifics, Trump has long been more public in his willingness to wield antisemitism as a political tool and criticize Jewish Americans for their insufficient loyalty in his eyes, as well.
Last year, he dined with antisemites who praised Adolf Hitler and denied the Holocaust. This year, he compared his federal prosecution connected to his attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election to Nazi Germany. In 2017, after white supremacists chanted “Jews will not replace us” during a march in Charlottesville, Virginia, and a neo-Nazi murdered a counterprotester, Trump said there “were very fine people, on both sides,” a remark he defended for years after.
Last month, as Jews all over the world celebrated Rosh Hashanah — the start of the new year and one of the holiest days on the Jewish calendar — Trump said those who did not support him in 2020 voted “to destroy America and Israel.”
Kelly also condemned Trump’s recent remarks that “in times gone by” Milley, the nation’s highest-ranking military officer at the time of the former president’s comments last month, would have been punished with “death” for perceived crimes.
The former chief of staff said he believed Trump said Milley, who Kelly described as “a selfless warrior who has served his country for 40 years in peacetime and war,” should be executed for treason “in the expectation that someone will take action.” In an interview with CBS News’ “60 Minutes” over the weekend, Milley said he had “adequate safety precautions” in place to protect himself and his family.
He’s not alone: Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, recently said he was paying $5,000 a day for private security to protect his family from the supporters of his party’s presidential nominee in 2016 and 2020.
Kelly continued in his statement to call Trump “a person who admires autocrats and murderous dictators. A person that has nothing but contempt for our democratic institutions, our Constitution, and the rule of law.”
“There is nothing more that can be said,” Kelly concluded. “God help us.”