Democrats rip Trump for suggesting Gold Star families could have given him Covid-19

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in her weekly press conference on Capitol Hill that Trump’s comments underscore the need for the administration to disclose when the president last tested negative for the coronavirus.

“It is a very important question for our country, because now the president is saying that he probably got this from the Gold Star families,” Pelosi said. “Can you believe that he would say such a thing?”

In the interview, Trump told host Maria Bartiromo that he “figured there would be a chance” he would become infected with the coronavirus, citing his meetings with the families of America’s war dead at the White House on Sept. 27.

“Sometimes, I’d be in groups of, for instance, Gold Star families. I met with Gold Star families. I didn’t want to cancel that,” he said. “But they all came in, and they all talk about their son and daughter and father. And, you know, they all came up to me, and they tell me a story.”

Trump explained that as he was being told these stories about fallen service members, “I can’t say, ‘Back up, stand 10 feet,’ you know? I just can’t do it.”

The Gold Star family members “come within an inch of my face, sometimes,” Trump said. “They want to hug me, and they want to kiss me. And they do. And, frankly, I’m not telling them to back up. I’m not doing it.”

Speaking to reporters Thursday afternoon, White House spokesperson Alyssa Farah said Trump wasn’t blaming Gold Star families for potentially infecting him and said it’s unlikely he contracted Covid-19 from the event.

“His point was merely that in the timeframe that he was potentially exposed, there were a number of different venues he’d been at and individuals he had interacted with that it could have come from — and by no means are blaming anyone who was present,” Farah said. “And we did take a lot of precautions for that event. So based on contact tracing, the data we have, we don’t think it arose from that event.”

It is not yet known where exactly Trump contracted Covid-19, and the White House has refused to provide a definitive timeline of the president’s coronavirus tests in the days leading up to his diagnosis.

Apart from the meetings the president described Thursday, he has held large-scale campaign rallies in recent months where attendees do not practice social distancing and many of his supporters do not wear masks.

The day before the Gold Star event, Trump also presided over a packed, mostly mask-less White House Rose Garden ceremony where he nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

That ceremony, which was attended by numerous administration officials and members of Congress, has since been identified as a potential superspreader event.

Several other Democrats piled on Thursday after Trump’s comments. Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.), a retired Army Reserve colonel, wrote on Twitter that Trump’s Gold Star remarks show he “will never take responsibility and will always think he’s above the people he serves.”

“The President who refused to stand up to Putin in defense of our troops is now offloading blame on Gold Star families, who’ve sacrificed everything for our nation,” Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, added on Twitter. “It’s time for this President to show respect for our military take responsibility for his failed #COVID response.”

Several high-ranking military leaders also attended the Gold Star event. Among them was Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm. Charles Ray, who tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday — prompting all but one of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to self-quarantine because they had met with Ray in a secure conference room at the Pentagon last Friday.

A second high-ranking officer who was at the Pentagon meeting, Assistant Marine Commandant Gen. Gary Thomas, tested positive Wednesday.

None of the other military leaders who met with Ray on Friday has since tested positive, and the Pentagon says they are able to do their jobs while quarantined.

“The Joint Chiefs and I remain in constant communication while in quarantine and the chain of command remains the same,” Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said in a statement. “There has been no impact on our ability to effectively plan, coordinate and synchronize efforts to defend our nation.”

All top leaders who had contact with Ray last week will be tested again on Friday. Yet defense officials are now saying the Pentagon will no longer announce negative test results, only positive ones.

Trump’s comments about the Gold Star event come one week after he floated a theory that infected service members and law enforcement officers were potentially responsible for White House aide Hope Hicks testing positive for Covid-19.

Hicks’ diagnosis was the apparent first in a wave of infections that have consumed the White House, upended the presidential race and resulted in a new outbreak in the nation’s capital.

“She’s fantastic, and she’s done a great job,” Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity at the time.

“But it’s very, very hard when you are with people from the military or from law enforcement,” he said. “And they come over to you and they — they want to hug you, and they want to kiss you because we really have done a good job for them. And you get close, and things happen.”

Lara Seligman and David Brown contributed to this report.