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Charlie Baker slams Trump over comments on fallen soldier

Keith Bedford/Globe Staff/file

Governor Charlie Baker.

By Globe Staff 

Republican Governor Charlie Baker unleashed some of his strongest criticism of President Trump Thursday, saying the exchange the commander-in-chief had with the family of a fallen soldier and the follow-up “was incredibly disgraceful and discouraging and depressing.”

US Army Sgt. La David T. Johnson of Florida was one of four service members killed during a patrol in the African country of Niger on Oct. 4, according to US military officials.

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During a condolence call to Johnson’s widow on Tuesday, Trump told her, “You know that this could happen when you signed up for it ... but it still hurts,” according to Democratic Congresswoman Frederica Wilson of Florida. That account was affirmed by Johnson’s family but denied by Trump.

“Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof),” Trump tweeted Wednesday, without providing the proof.

That and other comments from the president lit a multi-day media fire storm and made political what had long been considered a sacred and private ritual: The elected leader of the American people consoling the loved ones of soldiers who gave their lives in service of the United States.

“When it comes to these families, what they do and what they give for us,” Baker said, voice weighted with emotion, “they deserve our love, and our appreciation, our respect, and our support. Period.”

The governor made the comments in his monthly radio appearance on WGBH-FM’s “Boston Public Radio” program. He was responding to a question from co-host Jim Braude.

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Since Trump launched his campaign for the White House in 2015, Baker has hewn a careful path when speaking out against the New York businessman-turned-reality-TV-show-star-turned-president. The governor has usually crafted his criticism in muted tones of disappointment that emphasize where White House policies would hurt Massachusetts, and he’s done so without catapulting himself into the national spotlight.

So his use of the word “disgraceful” was more harsh than his usual criticism.


Material from the Associated Press was used in this report Joshua Miller can be reached at joshua.miller@globe.com.