John Kelly (AP/Evan Vucci)

John Kelly didn't expect President Trump would politicize his son's death: report

The White House says Kelly is disgusted with the way the media politicized soldiers' deaths. But Trump did it first


Taylor Link
October 19, 2017 2:45PM (UTC)

When White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told President Donald Trump that former President Barack Obama failed to call him after his son's death, he did not anticipate that fact would be shared with the public.

CNN's report Wednesday was the latest wrinkle in a story that has baffled Washington reporters. The drama about Kelly's fallen son first came to light Monday, when Trump divulged the information in an interview with Fox News radio.

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"As far as other presidents, I don't know, you could ask Gen. Kelly, did he get a call from Obama? I don't know what Obama's policy was," Trump said.

News of Kelly's surprise over Trump's comment comes a day after White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders berated the media for the politicizing of Robert's death.

"I know he has spoken to Gen. Kelly multiple times yesterday and today. I am not sure if he knew of that specific comment, but they had certainly spoken about it," Sanders said. "And he is aware and they have spoken several times since then."

The press secretary added that Kelly was "disgusted by the way this has been politicized and that the focus has come on the process, and not the fact that American lives were lost. I think he is disgusted and frustrated by that," Sanders said, putting the blame on the media for its coverage on the death of four American soldiers in Niger.

"If he has any anger, it is towards that," she said.

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Kelly rarely talks about his son, 2nd Lt. Robert Kelly, 29, who was killed by a Taliban landmine in Afghanistan in 2010.

The episode was the latest example of the White House trying to demean Trump's predecessor. Former assistant to Obama, Neal Price, who had also served in the CIA, tweeted Kelly should push back against the current president's attacks.

The Daily Beast reported Tuesday that senior White House officials endorsed Trump's charge against Obama as legitimate communications strategy. The Daily Beast reached out to Sanders to ask if Kelly personally signed off on turning his deceased son into a political football. She did not respond to their email. Price suggested that Kelly should resign if he did not approve of Trump's disclosure.

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Taylor Link

Taylor Link is an assistant editor at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @taylorlink_

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Barack Obama Donald Trump John Kelly Media Military Sarah Huckabee Sanders

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