As the back-and-forth continues over the content and tone of Donald Trump’s phone call to the widow a service member slain in Niger, other Gold Star families are coming forward with their interactions (or lack thereof) with the president. But the Washington Post reports on what may be the most peculiar story yet: The father of a deceased soldier says that Trump offered him $25,000, but he never got the money.
According to the Post, Trump phoned Chris Baldridge, the father of 22-year-old Army Corporal Dillon Baldridge, who was killed in Afghanistan on June 10 by Afghan police. Baldridge said he and the president spoke for about 15 minutes a few weeks after his son’s death. During that time, Baldridge mentioned that his ex-wife would receive all their son’s $10,000 military survivor benefits, despite the fact that he could “barely rub to nickles together.” According to Baldridge:
“He said, ‘I’m going to write you a check out of my personal account for $25,000,’ and I was just floored,” Baldridge said. “I could not believe he was saying that, and I wish I had it recorded because the man did say this. He said, ‘No other president has ever done something like this,’ but he said, ‘I’m going to do it.’”
Bainbridge said he later received a formal condolence letter from the White House. Check not included.“I know it was kind of far-fetched thinking,” he said. “But I was like, ‘Damn, no check.’ Just a letter saying ‘I’m sorry.’”
The White House didn’t elaborate on the conversation between Trump and Baldridge, but a spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said in a statement that “the check has been sent.”
“It’s disgusting that the media is taking something that should be recognized as a generous and sincere gesture, made privately by the President, and using it to advance the media’s biased agenda,” the statement said.
Balbridge’s account comes amid the controversy over Trump’s condolence call to the widow of one of the service members slain in Niger. Florida congresswoman Frederica Wilson said Tuesday that Trump told the service member’s wife that “he knew what he signed up for” during the conversation. The White House challenged the story, though the deceased service member’s mother said that the president “did disrespect” her son.
Before the alleged details of that call emerged, Trump had first defended his silence over the death of four U.S. troops in Niger. The president said he had drafted the letter and planned to call the families, too, and then attacked his predecessors for not doing the same. “If you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls, a lot of them didn’t make calls,” Trump said. “I like to call when it’s appropriate, when I think I’m able to do it.”
About 30 American service members have died in 2017. Some military families told news outlets they had not yet received phone calls or letters from the White House, but others were clear that Trump had reached out, and respectfully praised their deceased relatives. “It meant something, the leader of our nation calling us and showing the honor and respect to my brother that I feel my brother earned,” William J. Lee, whose brother died in Mosul, told the Post.