President Trump said Tuesday that anyone with questions about whether former President Barack Obama called the families of fallen service members can ask White House chief of staff John Kelly if he received a phone call from Obama.
"I think I've called every family of someone who's died," Trump told Fox News radio host Brian Kilmeade. "As far as other representatives, I don't know. You could ask Gen. Kelly, did he get a call from Obama?"
Kelly's son, Marine 2nd Lt. Robert Kelly, was killed while serving in Afghanistan in 2010.
Trump first claimed Monday that his predecessors, including Obama, didn't call the families of service members who were killed in action, and then said he was told Obama "didn't often" make phone calls.
After Trump's latest comment rocketed around Tuesday morning, the Trump White House said Kelly did not get a call from Obama after his son died.
Trump emphasized Tuesday that he has called "virtually everybody" and said he plans to call the family members of four U.S. soldiers killed in Niger this month.
Trump also said he has written letters to their families, which he will send in the coming days. Trump's initial comments Monday were the first remarks he made about the deaths, which had occurred Oct. 4. He was asked specifically why he hadn't commented on the deaths, but instead criticized his predecessors for not doing what he does.
Ned Price, spokesman and senior director for the National Security Council under Obama, blasted Trump's "inane cruelty" for bringing up the death of Kelly's son in order to bash Obama.
Kelly, a man of honor & decency, should stop this inane cruelty. He saw up-close just how& how muchObama cared for the fallens families. https://t.co/5NPTKHsd1Z— Ned Price (@nedprice) October 17, 2017
"Kelly, a man of honor & decency, should stop this inane cruelty. He saw up-close just how—& how much—Obama cared for the fallen's families," Price tweeted.
Other former Obama aides had also leapt to the former president's defense after Trump's first remarks Monday, pointing out he traveled to Dover, Del., to observe the return of fallen service members, visited with families and frequently visited Arlington National Cemetery.
"That's a fucking lie," Alyssa Mastromonaco, Obama's deputy chief of staff for operations, first tweeted in response to Trump's claim. "To say president obama (or past presidents) didn't call the family members of soldiers KIA — he's a deranged animal."
Pressed by a reporter, Trump later equivocated on his remarks during the Monday press conference.
"President Obama I think probably did sometimes, and maybe sometimes he didn't. I don't know," he added. "That's what I was told. All I can do is ask my generals. Other presidents did not call. They'd write letters and some presidents didn't do anything, but I like the combination of — I like, when I can, the combination of a call and also a letter."