President Donald Trump spent much of his Labor Day tweeting about an article in The Atlantic that painted him as dismissive of American soldiers who died in battle and unwilling to visit their graves. The most explosive claim in the piece is that Trump called fallen soldiers “suckers” and “losers,” something that he denies.
It’s not a surprise, then, that he seemed piqued when asked about the article in a news conference on Monday.
As Reuters’ White House reporter Jeff Mason, who was wearing a mask, began to ask his question, Trump interrupted.
“You’re going to have to take that off. Just take it off,” said Trump as he pointed to Mason’s mask.
“How many feet are you away?” asked a seemingly irritated president. “If you don’t take it off, you’re very muffled. So if you take it off, it would be a lot easier.”
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“I’ll just speak a lot louder,” replied Mason. “Is that better?”
Trump sighed and responded, “It’s better, yeah. It’s better.”
Mason then continued with his question: “Mr. President, some people are having a hard time believing your denial of the Atlantic story because of what you said about John McCain. Do you understand that?”
Trump famously called McCain, who was a prisoner of war for five years in Vietnam, a “loser.” He said at the time, “I like people that weren’t captured.”
The president responded to Mason’s question by saying, “No, I don’t understand it. I don’t understand it at all because…I have always been on the opposite side of John McCain. John McCain liked wars. I will be a better warrior than anybody, but when we fight a war, we’re gonna win ’em.”
“The story is a hoax,” said Trump of the Atlantic piece. “Written by a guy who’s got a tremendously bad history…It’s a made up story. It’s a totally made-up story.”
“Who would say a thing like that? Only an animal would say a thing like that?”
Trump then spent four minutes trying to refute the Atlantic piece, saying that “15 people have come out” to verify his version of the events.
Thursday evening, the Associated Press and the Washington Post reported details matching some of those in The Atlantic piece, while on Friday, Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin reported that she had also confirmed key details in the piece.
Trump has a convoluted history with masks. He long said he preferred not to wear one then, in July said he was “all for it.” Shortly thereafter he was seen in public wearing one for the first time. Since then, he often appears without one.
On Thursday, at a campaign event where few faces were covered, Trump said he feels Joe Biden, “likes a mask.” He continued, “This guy’s got some big issues.”