Amid controversy about President Trump’s handling of military condolence calls, one military widow has released a recording of Trump’s call to her. Natasha De Alencar, whose husband Army Staff Sgt. Mark R. De Alencar was killed in Afghanistan in April, describes the call as “a moment of niceness” while the family was “going through hell.”
De Alencar released the audio tape of her call to The Washington Post on October 20th. In it, Trump describes Sgt. De Alencar as an “unbelievable hero,” said that “all the people that served with him are saying how incredible he was.” He finishes by extending her a White House invitation and tells her to tell her children that “their father was a great hero that I respected.” De Alencar, who describes herself as “a Democrat who doesn’t do politics,” said that she felt the President understood what she was going through.
Trump has been surrounded by controversy about his military condolence calls since a press conference on October 12th, where he addressed the deaths of four American soldiers in Niger. When asked why he hadn’t made a public statement, Trump accused Obama of not calling the families of deceased soldiers during his tenure. He followed by saying that he himself had called and written letters to “virtually everyone.”
A day later, Rep. Frederica Wilson accused Trump of making an “insensitive” phone call to one war widow. Wilson, a mentor of the fallen soldier, said that she was in the car when the call came through over speakerphone. She alleged that during the call, Trump said that the fallen soldier “knew what he signed up for, but I guess it still hurts.” While Chief of Staff John Kelly said that Wilson’s behaviour was “selfish,” he did not refute her claims.
Myeisha Johnson, the wife of the deceased, came forward to confirm Wilson’s claims on October 23rd. She also added that the president forgot her husband’s name during the call and that his “tone” and “attitude” were not appropriate. “If my husband is out here fighting for our country and he risked his life for our country,” she said on Good Morning America, “why can’t you remember his name?” Trump denied Johnson’s statement in a later tweet.
Several other families have stepped forward to criticize President Trump’s handling of their condolence calls. Chris Baldridge, whose son was killed in Afghanistan, said in a Washington Post report that Trump had offered the family a $25,000 check during his phone call. After the Post ran the story, a White House official said that the cheque had been sent. When the Baldridge family eventually received the cheque, it was dated the same day as the report was released. Nine other families say that Trump did not call them.
In an interview with CNN on October 20th, De Alencar declined to comment on the controversy, saying only that she understands that the other families are “hurting” like she is. She also extended her condolences to the family members of those killed in the recent attacks. “I just wanted to let them know that I understand,” she told reports, “and I get it and I just want to let them know—my family to their family—we grieve with you.”
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