Trump offered a grieving military father $25,000 in a call, but didn’t follow through
President Trump, in a personal phone call to a grieving military father, offered him $25,000 and said he would direct his staff to establish an online fundraiser for the family, but neither happened, the father said.
Chris Baldridge, the father of Army Cpl. Dillon Baldridge, told The Washington Post that Trump called him at his home in Zebulon, N.C., a few weeks after his 22-year-old son and two fellow soldiers were gunned down by an Afghan police officer in a suspected insider attack June 10. Their phone conversation lasted about 15 minutes, Baldridge said, and centered for a time on the father’s struggle with the manner in which his son was killed.
“I said, ‘Me and my wife would rather our son died in trench warfare,’ ” Baldridge said. “I feel like he got murdered over there.”
Trump’s offer of $25,000 adds another dimension to the president’s relations with Gold Star families, an honorific given to those whose loved ones die while serving in support of the nation’s wars. The disclosure follows questions about how often the president has called or written to grieving military families.
The Washington Post contacted the White House about Baldridge’s account on Wednesday morning. Officials declined to discuss the events in detail.
But in a statement Wednesday afternoon, White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said: “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.”
Trump said this week that he has “called every family of somebody that’s died, and it’s the hardest call to make.” At least 20 Americans have been killed in action since he became commander in chief in January. The Washington Post interviewed the families of 13 and found that his interactions with them vary. About half had received phone calls, they said. The others said they had not heard from the president.
In his call with Trump, Baldridge, a construction worker, expressed frustration with the military’s survivor benefits program. Because his ex-wife was listed as their son’s beneficiary, she was expected to receive the Pentagon’s $100,000 death gratuity — even though “I can barely rub two nickels together,” he told Trump.
The president’s response shocked him.
“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.’ ”
The president has faced worsening backlash since details emerged of his phone call Tuesday with the widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson, who was killed Oct. 4 alongside three other U.S. soldiers in Niger. After not addressing the incident for 12 days, Trump on Monday falsely claimed that previous presidents never or rarely called the families of fallen service members. In fact, they did so regularly.