Fact Check: Trump On Calling Gold Star Families

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While President Donald Trump has asserted that he has personally spoken to all of the families of U.S. soldiers who have died under his watch, at least nine families of the 43 military service members who have fallen during the latest administration said they had no contact with the president.

On Oct. 17, Trump defended his previous assertion that his recent predecessors were inattentive to the families of fallen soldiers and stated during an interview that he had personally phoned all of the families of service members who died since he assumed office.

"To the best of my knowledge I think I've called every family of somebody that's died ... I don't know what Bush did, I don't know what Obama did," Trump told Fox News Radio. "You could easily find out what President Obama did. All you have to do is ask the military people but I believe his policy was somewhat different than my policy. I can tell you my policy is I've called every one of them."

On Oct. 19, The Associated Press reported that it had contacted the families of all 43 service members who had died since Trump assumed office. Of the 18 families who responded, nine said that Trump had reached out via phone or a letter, while nine said they hadn't received any condolences from the president.

Mark Hunter, whose son Army Sgt. Jonathan M. Hunter was killed during an August suicide bombing in August, said his family was promised a phone call from Trump but was instead contacted by Vice President Mike Pence.

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"Disappointed that [Trump] at least didn't call and thank me for my son and our ultimate sacrifice," Hunter said. "That's all I wanted to hear. He didn't have to say nothing else. That's all I wanted to hear. From him -- not the vice president."

Cynthia Kimball, whose son John Henry Hoagland III died aboard the USS John McCain in August, said that she only received a letter of condolence from the White House.

"I was pretty generic," Kimball said. "I hate to say, because it did come from Washington and the president. But, I'm going to guess that is was the same or similar to the letter that everybody else received."

The interest in how many Gold Star families Trump had contacted began on Oct. 16, when the president was asked if he contacted the relatives of four U.S. soldiers who were killed in Niger on Oct. 4.

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"The traditional way, you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn't make calls ... And some presidents didn't do anything," Trump responded.

There is well-documented evidence that both former President Barack Obama and George W. Bush contacted Gold Star families throughout their cumulative four terms in office. Barbara Perry, director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia's Miller Center, noted that it likely would have been impossible for the two former commander-in-chiefs to personally phone all the families of soldiers who died under their watch.

"For presidents who served in times of lengthy wars, Vietnam and the War on Terror, when thousands of service members have been killed in action, it would be impractical to think presidents could call all families," Perry told PolitiFact. "I suspect that all presidents at least send letters to the families of fallen service members."

Sources: The Associated Press, Fox News RadioPolitiFact / Feature Image: DoD News/Flickr / Embedded Images: DoD News/Flickr, U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Flickr

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