Republican nominee Trump on Monday suggested to a room full of veterans that soldiers who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are not “strong” and “can’t handle it.”
“When people come back from war and combat and they see maybe what the people in this room have seen many times over, and you’re strong and you can handle it, but a lot of people can’t handle it,” he said at a Q&A with the Retired American Warriors PAC in Virginia.
His comments have sparked anger among veterans as well as a response from Vice President Joe Biden.
“Where in the hell is he from” Biden said at a rally in Florida for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. “I don’t think he was trying to be mean. He is just so thoroughly, completely uninformed.”
Trump said that addressing mental health concerns for soldiers returning home would be a priority for his presidency. But Biden rejected the idea that Trump would help those in need.
“What are the chances Trump honors commitment to those who are wounded” he questioned. “It’s not just that he doesn’t get it. He doesn’t want to find out.”
Veterans took to social media to respond.
Kevin Plantz (@KevinPlantz) October 3, 2016
Ramond Curtis (@Ramond03) October 3, 2016
I don’t go on facebook much b/c this year alone I’ve logged on 3 times to find guys I served w/ either killed themselves or tried to. #PTSD
Jason Kirell (@jaykirell) October 3, 2016
The Trump campaign sent a statement to BuzzFeed News from Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn in response to the backlash.
“The media continues to operate as the propaganda arm of Hillary Clinton as they took Mr. Trump’s words out of context in order to deceive voters and veterans an appalling act that shows they are willing to go to any length to carry water for their candidate of choice,” Flynn said. “Mr. Trump was highlighting the challenges veterans face when returning home after serving their country. He has always respected the service and sacrifice of our military men and women proposing reforms to Veteran Affairs to adequately address the various issues veterans face when they return home.”
Clinton did not respond to Trump directly but did allude to the comments in a tweet regarding treating soldiers with PTSD.
Veterans who experience PTS are stronger than we’ll ever understand. We owe them nothing short of world-class care: https://t.co/skZijed0k3
Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) October 3, 2016
Derek Coy, a Marine veteran, called Trump’s statement “an irresponsible thing to say” in a comment to the New York Daily News.
“I was diagnosed with PTSD when I separated from the Marine Corps, and one of the things that prevented me from seeking care was exactly what he said, this fear of being looked at as weak or not strong enough,” he recalled. “Unfortunately, there so many other vets who feel the same way, and this irresponsible comment could prevent them from seeking care.”
Jon Soltz, an Iraq war veteran and head of VoteVets.org, called the comments “horrible” but “not shocking.”
“We’re talking about a person, in Trump, who believes that POWs aren’t real heroes, and that he’s made sacrifices akin to Gold Star Families who lost their loved ones in war,” he said. “The constant disrespect Donald Trump shows towards our veterans and service members is sickening, and completely and totally disqualifying.”
Soltz was referring to Trump’s comments about Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2015. Trump said McCain is not a real war hero because he was captured, saying, “I like people who weren’t captured.”
More recently, Trump insulted a Gold Star family that spoke at the Democratic National Convention over the summer. And at a Trump rally, Lt. Col. Louis Dorfman, a veteran, presented Trump with his Purple Heart, to which Trump said, “I’ve always wanted to get the real Purple Heart. This was much easier.”
Trump also came under fire when it was reported that he had evaded the military draft numerous times.