Trump, media at war over PTSD
Democrats have seized on remarks Donald Trump made to a veterans group on Monday, accusing the GOP nominee of disrespecting veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The Trump campaign insists Trump’s words have been taken out of context and are lashing out at the media for headlines that suggest the celebrity businessman described those suffering from PTSD as weak-minded.
“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,” said Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a top Trump surrogate said in a statement.
Speaking to a veterans group in Virginia, Trump was asked by a former Marine whether he would take a “holistic” approach, including the assimilation of faith-based Christian programs, in assisting veterans who return from war with PTSD.
“Yes, I would,” Trump responded.
“Look, we need that so badly and when you talk about the mental health problems, when people come back from war and combat and they see maybe what 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 and they see horror stories. They see events that you’d see in a movie and you wouldn’t believe it. We need mental health help, and medical — it’s one of the things that’s least addressed, and it’s one of the things I hear most about when I go around and talk to veterans.
“We’re going to have a very robust level of performance having to do with mental health,” Trump said. “We are losing so many great people who could be taken care of if they had proper care.”
Trump’s remarks were received warmly by the veterans at the town hall event moderated by Christian leader Tony Perkins.
But Trump’s quote about some veterans being “strong” and able to “handle it” provoked backlash, as media outlets ran with headlines about how Trump had suggested that if you suffer from PTSD, it’s because you are weak.
“Draft-dodger Trump: PTSD sufferers are weak,” said a tweet from The Daily Beast.
“Trump suggest that soldiers who suffer from PTSD aren’t ‘strong’,” said an article from Buzzfeed, which was instantly blasted out by the liberal opposition research group American Bridge.
Trump’s critics pounced, likening the remarks to his attack against Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for being a prisoner of war or his feud with the Gold Star parents of a slain Muslim American soldier.
My God. Shame on Trump for attacking bravest who return suffering from PTSD. This from a man who dodged draft & shunned any public service.
— John Weaver (@JWGOP) October 3, 2016
Trump insulted POWs, attacked Gold Star families, & says PTSD is for the weak. Our military deserves better than this chickenhawk fraud.
— Evan McMullin (@Evan_McMullin) October 3, 2016
But in Trump’s full quote, which was not included in many of the news write-ups, he appears to describe PTSD as a mental health problem, not a character flaw.
“When you hear the 22 suicides a day, that should never be,” Trump said. “We’re going to be addressing that strongly and the whole mental health issue is going to be a very important issue when I take over. The VA is going to be fixed in so many ways, but that’s going to be one of the ways we’re going to help. In many respects, that’s going to have to be the number one thing we do, because it has been left behind.”
The veteran who asked the question – Marine Staff Sgt. Chad Robichaux, who served eight tours in Afghanistan and said he once suffered from PTSD himself – called it “sickening that anyone would twist Mr. Trump’s comments to me in order to pursue a political agenda.”
“I took his comments to be thoughtful and understanding of the struggles many veterans have and I believe he is committed to helping them,” Robichaux said. “The nature of my question focused on a broken system that’s failing so many of our veterans … I interpreted his answer to affirm that the system is broken and he would take the necessary steps to address it.”