A progressive military veterans group accused Donald Trump of using servicemen and servicewomen “as a prop to hide behind” in order to get out of the Republican presidential debate Thursday.
VoteVets.org, a nonprofit with more than 400,000 supporters, said the GOP frontrunner was using veterans as an excuse to evade questions by Fox News pundit and debate moderator Megyn Kelly.
“Let me put this in language Donald Trump understands,” Jon Soltz, an Iraq War veteran and the chairman of VoteVets.org, said in a statement. “You’re a loser. You’re a third-rate politician, who clearly doesn’t understand issues, and is so scared of Megyn Kelly exposing it, that you’re looking to use veterans to protect you from facing her questions.”
The feud between Trump and Kelly started at the first Republican debate in August when the flamboyant real estate magnate took issue with her line of questioning. Most memorably, Kelly pressed Trump on having referred to women he dislikes as “fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals.”
Accusing Fox News and Kelly of bias, Trump boycotted Thursday night’s debate and held a fundraiser for veterans on the Drake University campus in Des Moines, Iowa.
Donald Trump poses with a ring given to him by a group of veterans during a campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo: Jae C. Hong/AP)
“We have to make our military so strong, so big, so powerful that nobody messes with us,” he told supporters at the benefit. “We’re never gonna have to use it. We want nobody to mess with us.”
Protesters interrupted Trump’s speech by shouting, “We love veterans. Trump loves war.” They were escorted from the auditorium, where the audience drowned out their voices by chanting, “Trump! Trump! Trump!”
On Thursday, Trump launched a website to solicit donations for military veterans. The page claims that “100% of your donations will go directly to Veterans needs” but the disclosure at the bottom says that the proceeds will go to the Donald J. Trump Foundation. It has already raised over $620,000.
Iraq War veteran and VoteVets.org co-founder and chairman Jon Soltz gestures during a meeting on Capitol Hill on Feb. 7, 2007. (Photo: Dennis Cook/AP)
VoteVets.org pointed out that Trump’s official website refers to the “Veterans Administration,” even though the agency was granted Cabinet-level status in 1988 and renamed the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“Your so-called veterans’ plan on your website is a joke, and refers to the agency as the ‘Veterans Administration,’ even though it has been called the ‘Department of Veterans Affairs’ for almost 30 years. It’s pathetic,” Soltz said.
Founded in 2006, VoteVets.org is dedicated to making sure U.S. troops have what they need to complete their missions abroad and receive the care they deserve when they return to civilian life.