Earlier today, Donald Trump addressed the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, telling the veterans’ group that he would install a veterans’ hotline in the White House and vowing to “pick up the phone personally” if a hotline employee doesn’t properly handle a complaint.
There is reason to believe, however, that Trump might not exactly keep his word. Here are just five instances that reveal Trump’s troubling record on veterans’ issues:
1) Fake Veterans’ Hotline
Just one month after announcing his presidential run last year, Trump claimed that his campaign had “established a hotline (855-VETS-352)” for veterans “to share their stories about the need to reform our Veterans Administration.”
But if you try calling the number today, it goes straight to voicemail and asks you to send an email to the campaign.
2) Fake Veterans’ Group Fundraiser
Back in September, Trump organized a fundraiser in San Diego for a group called Veterans for a Strong America, which in turn endorsed Trump.
It turns out, however, that Veterans for a Strong America is simply a one-man group and a total scam.
Rick Cohen of Non-Profit Quarterly writes, “Veterans for a Strong America was and is clearly yet another fake organization willing to use and abuse veterans for the personal or political ends of the man who created it.”
Rachel Maddow led the way in exposing the group, noting that the fundraiser itself was likely illegal:
3) Second Fake Veterans’ Fundraiser
Upset that Fox News host Megyn Kelly was set to moderate a GOP primary debate in Iowa in January, Trump announced that he would skip the debate and instead hold a fundraiser for veterans. After the event, Trump boasted that he had raised $6 million for veterans’ causes.
However, months after Trump’s “fundraiser,” veterans’ charities reported that they were “seeing a fraction of the promised money raised.” The campaign later admitted that the event brought in well short of the $6 million figure that Trump had boasted about on the campaign trail, and reporters discovered that Trump himself never made the $1 million contribution that he pledged to personally underwrite.
Facing public pressure about the contribution, Trump finally donated the money he had promised, despite the fact his then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski had previously claimed that “Mr. Trump’s money is fully spent.” Trump then denied that he had ever said he had raised $6 million — a claim that was easily disproved.
Steve Benen explained:
Exactly how much did Trump raise for veterans? His campaign doesn’t know. How much of it has been allocated? His campaign doesn’t know that, either. Who were the beneficiaries of Trump’s $1 million contribution? The campaign doesn’t want to talk about it.
Only when he faced immense media pressure and scrutiny did Trump finally fulfill his pledge, months after his January fundraiser and despite the fact his campaign manager had insisted that he had already donated the money.
Of course, Trump has a long history of bragging about making charitable contributions that he never actually made.
“If Hillary Clinton and her campaign had been caught making blatantly false claims about donations to veterans’ charities, is there any doubt that it would be one of the biggest stories of the election season?” Benen asked. “How much punditry would we hear about this being proof about Clinton’s dishonesty and willingness to say anything to get elected?”
4) Smearing Troops
Much as Trump denied making the remarks that he had clearly made about his veterans’ fundraiser, the candidate has denied ever mocking GOP Sen. John McCain for being a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War.
Trump, who made the comments at an Iowa “pro-family” event last summer, did in fact mock McCain for his service: “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured — I like people that weren’t captured, okay? I hate to tell you.”
He has similarly denied ever suggesting that U.S. troops in Iraq had stolen money meant for reconstruction projects — again, despite the fact that recordings of his remarks are publicly available.
5) Attacks On Disabled Veterans
While he fashions himself as a champion of veterans, Trump has spent years, since as far back as the 1990s, urging government officials to crack down on disabled veteran vendors on Fifth Avenue, home of the Trump Tower. In 2004, Trump called such vending “deplorable.”
“He’s done more damage to the disabled veterans in this city than any other man,” one of the veterans said of Trump.