President Donald Trump lashed out at retired Navy Adm. William McRaven in an interview with Fox News on Sunday, calling him a “Hillary Clinton fan” and an “Obama backer.”
Trump was responding to a question from Fox News' Chris Wallace, in which he quoted McRaven, the former commander of U.S. Special Operations Command who oversaw the 2011 operation that killed Osama bin Laden, as saying the president's anti-media sentiments were “the greatest threat to democracy in his lifetime.”
Trump interrupted, saying, “excuse me, Hillary Clinton fan.”
“He's a Hillary Clinton backer, and an Obama backer,” Trump said. “And frankly, wouldn't it have been nice if we got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner than that? Wouldn't it have been nice? Think of this: Living in Pakistan and beautiful in Pakistan. I guess they considered it a nice mansion, I don't know, I've seen nicer.”
He continued: “But living in Pakistan, right next to the military academy, everybody in Pakistan knew he was there. And we give Pakistan $1.3 billion a year, and they don't tell him?”
Wallace interjected: “You're not even going to give him credit for taking down Bin Laden?”
“Look, there's news right there,” Trump responded. “He lived in Pakistan. We're supporting Pakistan. We give them $1.3 billion a year, which we don't give them any more by the way, I ended it. Because they don't do anything for us, they don't do a damn thing for us.”
Trump on retired Navy SEAL Adm. Bill McRaven, who has called the president's attacks on the press "the greatest threat to democracy."
"He's a Hillary Clinton backer and an Obama backer. And frankly, wouldn't it have been nice if we got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner than that?" pic.twitter.com/tXsZHjJzaA
— Axios (@axios) November 18, 2018
Wallace's question was premised on McRaven's February talk at The University of Texas, in which the retired Navy SEAL challenged the president for frequently calling journalists the “enemy of the American people.” McRaven also caught Trump's ire in August after he wrote an op-ed in which he said the president was resorting to “McCarthy-era tactics” to suppress critics.
McRaven served for 37 years in the military under various Republican and Democratic presidents, and has never publicly “backed” or donated to Clinton or Obama. A fellow admiral did say in 2014 it was rumored that McRaven was among those considered as Clinton's vice presidential nominee, however, and some are even pushing him to run for president against Trump in 2020.
McRaven declined to comment to Task & Purpose on Trump's remarks. However, in a statement to CNN's Jake Tapper, McRaven said:
“I did not back Hillary Clinton or anyone else. I am a fan of President Obama and President George W. Bush, both of whom I worked for. I admire all Presidents, regardless of their political party, who uphold the dignity of the office and who use that office to bring the Nation together in challenging times. I stand by my comment that the President's attack on the media is the greatest threat to our democracy in my lifetime. When you undermine the people's right to a free press and freedom of speech and expression, then you threaten the Constitution and all for which it stands.”
Retired Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, the former director of the CIA and NSA turned Trump critic, tweeted of the president's comments, “how you doing on [Al Qaeda leader Ayman al] Zawahiri, Mr President? [ISIS leader] Abu Bakr al Baghdadi?” while calling McRaven an American hero like those who sacrificed at Belleau Wood in World War I. “You remember them, right?”