FACT CHECK: Fact-Checking Biden’s Claim That Trump Referred To Veterans As ‘Suckers And Losers’

Christine Sellers | Fact Check Reporter

During a June 28 campaign rally held in Raleigh, North Carolina, President Joe Biden claimed 2024 presumptive Republican nominee and former President Donald Trump referred to veterans as “suckers and losers.”

Verdict: Unsubstantiated

Trump has repeatedly denied making the remark. A Trump spokesperson also denied the former Republican President ever made the remark to Check Your Fact via email. The Atlantic has stood by its reporting and several sources, mostly anonymous, have said Trump made the remarks.

Fact Check:

Biden told House Democrats in a letter that he would be staying in the 2024 presidential race, according to CNN. Several House Democrats have called on Biden to step down amid his debate performance and concerns about his mental fitness, the outlet reported.

During his June 28 campaign rally, Biden claimed Trump referred to veterans as “suckers and losers.” “[Trump] lied about how great he was for veterans. He called them ‘suckers and losers.’ He tried to deny it, my son was one of those people,” Biden said during the event. A clip from the event has been shared on X by the Biden-Harris campaign, where it has received over 300,000 views.

The claim is unsubstantiated. Biden referenced a September 3, 2020 piece from The Atlantic when making the claim. According to the same piece, Trump canceled a 2018 stop at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery after allegedly saying it was “filled with losers.” The then-president also allegedly referred to “the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as ‘suckers’ for getting killed,” the same piece indicates.

The magazine said Trump made the remarks during a conversation with senior staff members, citing “four people with firsthand knowledge of the discussion.” The magazine did not reveal the identities of the four people at any point in the piece.

Trump denied The Atlantic’s claim accusing him of disparaging the military on September 3, 2020 during a set of remarks at Joint Base Andrews, labeling the claim as “fake news.”

“I did hear, though, when reentering the plane, I was told by [White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows] and [White House Communications Director Hope Hicks] and some others that some horrible things were said. Fake things. Fake news. Corrupt news. The kind of news that’s ruining your profession. And everyone knows it’s totally false,” Trump told reporters in part.

“It is a disgraceful situation by a magazine that’s a terrible magazine. I don’t read it, but I just heard about it. They made it up. And, probably, it’s a couple of people that have been failures in the administration that I got rid of. And I couldn’t get rid of them fast enough. But — or it was just made up. But it’s unthinkable,” He added.

In addition, Alyssa Farah Griffin, a then-White House spokesperson, denied the claim’s validity in an email to The Atlantic, according to the same September 3, 2020 piece.

“This report is false. President Trump holds the military in the highest regard. He’s demonstrated his commitment to them at every turn: delivering on his promise to give our troops a much needed pay raise, increasing military spending, signing critical veterans reforms, and supporting military spouses. This has no basis in fact,” Farah Griffin’s statement read. (RELATED: Fact-Checking Trump’s Claim That Biden ‘Doesn’t Need Congress’ To Close The Border)

Biden repeated the claim about Trump purportedly disparaging the military ahead of his North Carolina campaign rally during the first presidential debate of the 2024 election cycle. Trump once again denied the claim, saying it was a “made-up quote” from a “third-rate magazine.”

Despite Trump’s explicit denial of the claim, General John Kelly, who served as the former Republican President’s White House Chief of Staff from 2017 to 2019, said in a statement in October 2023 that Trump had privately disparaged members of the military, according to NBC News.

In a statement to CNN, Kelly described Trump as “a person that thinks those who defend their country in uniform, or are shot down or seriously wounded in combat, or spend years being tortured as POWs are all ‘suckers’ because ‘there is nothing in it for them,'” NBC News reported. Trump’s spokesperson, Steven Cheung, denied the claim, however.

“John Kelly has totally clowned himself with these debunked stories he’s made up because he didn’t serve his President well while working as Chief of Staff,” Cheung said, according to the outlet.

Jennifer Griffin, chief national security correspondent at Fox News, claimed Trump used the term “sucker” in reference to “anyone who went [to war during the Vietnam War]” via a post shared on X on September 4, 2020.

“According to one former senior Trump administration official: ‘When the President spoke about the Vietnam War, he said, ‘It was a stupid war. Anyone who went was a sucker,'” Griffin wrote.

Both instances were cited in a June 10 article from The New York Times fact-checking Trump despite his denial of the claim. Besides these two instances, the outlet cited a 2015 social media post as well as a 2015 event in which Trump appeared to refer to the late Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain as a “loser.”

Chris LaCivita, Trump’s 2024 co-campaign manager and a wounded combat veteran, told Check Your Fact that the “Biden campaign is “peddling a fake and thoroughly debunked story about President Trump’s visit to France to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. ”

“Numerous first-hand accounts– even from people like John Bolton and Alyssa Farah [Griffin] — vehemently denied the bogus claims from unnamed sources looking to use American heroes for their sick and twisted political attacks. The fact remains that severe weather conditions on that day prevented the safe transportation of the President and guests to the cemetery, and he participated in a ceremony at the Suresnes American Cemetery the next day. The Biden team is desperate because they know Biden has repeatedly disrespected the men and women who serve this country with honor and valor every single day,” LaCivita said.

“Joe Biden has disrespected U.S. service members by calling them ‘silly bastards,’ showed his lack of empathy by repeatedly checking his watch during a solemn ceremony for soldiers killed during the catastrophic Afghanistan withdrawal, and has been criticized by Gold Star families for his lack of respect. The fact is that under Biden, America is weaker on the world stage and has made America more vulnerable,” he added.

A spokesperson for The Atlantic referred Check Your Fact to its reporting.

“We’ve covered this widely – President Biden is referring to The Atlantic’s own reporting from Sept. 2020,” the same spokesperson said. The spokesperson also referenced a June 27 piece from the magazine that “[itemizes] our reporting, the corroboration, and former President Trump’s repeated denials of his well-documented remarks.”

Check Your Fact has also contacted the Biden campaign for comment and will update this piece accordingly if one is received.

Christine Sellers

Fact Check Reporter