Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, a veteran of the Afghanistan War, was disgusted Sunday by a September 2019 comment that then-President Donald Trump made about a wounded Army captain, as reported Thursday in The Atlantic.
Trump, in the same vein as his 2015 declaration that Vietnam veteran and prisoner of war John McCain was “not a war hero” because he “likes people who weren’t captured,” apparently groused about the inclusion of Luis Avila at the welcome ceremony for incoming Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley. An IED attack in Afghanistan had cost Avila one of his legs, and he had also suffered brain damage, two heart attacks and two strokes.
“Why do you bring people like that here?” Trump complained to Milley after Avila, seated in a wheelchair, sang “God Bless America,” according to several people who heard him. “No one wants to see that, the wounded.” Trump then reportedly instructed Milley to never again have Avila at a public event.
Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union, Buttiegieg was asked about this and Trump’s angry response to the story, which included him accusing Milley of treason for trying to maintain global stability around the time of the 2020 election in light of an increasingly erratic president.
“It’s just the latest in a pattern of outrageous attacks on the people who keep this country safe,” the transportation secretary told anchor Dana Bash, before commending some injured veterans he knows. “These are the kind of people that deserve respect and a hell of a lot more than that from every American, and definitely from every American president.”
In his Truth Social post Friday, Trump did not specifically deny that he made the comment to Milly, but resorted to his default swipe at “Fake News reporting”–an insult that, by his own admission, according to 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl, is just meant to tarnish an outlet’s reputation whenever it publishes something he doesn’t like.
“I guess wounded veterans make President Trump feel uncomfortable,” Buttigieg continued. “Those are exactly the kinds of people we should lift up, because their commitment could help unify the country. And we need voices–whether it’s ordinary people, service members, or political leaders–who are interested in unifying, not dividing, Americans.”