Live from Music Row Wednesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Tennessee Star National Correspondent Neil W. McCabe to the newsmakers line.
During the third hour, McCabe gave his inside theory as the origins of The Atlantic article claiming Trump disparaged US military and war veterans during a trip to France. He added that this may have originated from General John Kelly who is a never-Trumper.
Leahy: On the newsmaker line our own National Correspondent – Washington-based journalist and a great friend and intrepid reporter, Neil W. McCabe. Good morning, Neil.
McCabe: Good morning, Mike. Good morning, Crom. Very good to be with you today. I hope you had a great Labor Day weekend. So it begins right? Summer is over, and now it’s going to get crazy. You thought it was crazy before, (Leahy laughs) but actually that was just a pre-game warm-up. Now it’s on.
Leahy: It’s really crazy now! Seven weeks and six days til Election Day. Neil, you have some special insights into this story from the past couple of days that have come and gone a little bit. But of course, you are a military guy. You are in the Army Reserve. You’ve reported on what’s going on in the Pentagon. Big story.
Our headline actually was this. Biden Megadonor Owns The Atlantic and Reportedly Communicates Often with Reporter Behind Anonymously-Sourced Trump Bombshell. The report was like two years ago over in Europe. President said disparaging things about America’s veterans. Tell us what is your take as a journalist about the origin of that story?
McCabe: Well it won’t be a surprise to men listening that when men get together, and they start joking around, they start exaggerating situations, and they try to top each other to see who will say the most outrageous thing, or blow things out of proportion thing. If they are talking about a ballgame or any type of event, and I think what we have is a situation where White House Chief of Staff and retired Marine general John Kelly told the President, hey helicopters can’t fly.
You can’t go to Belleau Wood, because you cannot have the President of the United States in a slow-rolling convoy for an hour, because it wasn’t just the fact that you couldn’t have air support because of the low cloud ceiling. And that’s not for armed protection. The concern here is that you need a Medivac. If you need a helicopter to Medivac somebody you can’t get a helicopter out of there safely. That’s the concern.
Leahy: Neil, if I can just set the stage here. This was two years ago in Europe. Belleau Wood is a famous cemetery that is sort of sacred to Marines that died in WWII. It’s in France or Belgium? Where is it?
McCabe: This is in Northeast France. And Belleau Wood was one of those crystallizing events in the culture of the Marine Corps like Iwo Jima and the shores of Tripoli. And there were medal of honor recipients there. There was great bravery. Many of these Marines that hadn’t been in this kind of action for a long time, because it was different than say, fighting in the jungles of the Philippines or the Spanish-American War.
You are fighting European-developed armies. It was a time for the Marines that could show that they could stand up against the Germans. It’s a very emotional thing. There wasn’t a Marine listening or is related to a Marine, who doesn’t understand the importance of the sacred grounds of the Belleau Wood, both the battlefield and cemetery. So Kelly is a Marine.
Kelly tells the President you can’t go. But Kelly goes on his own, and I believe Dumford was with him too, who is the chairman of the joint chiefs. And I believe there were other Marines that went. And frankly, Kelly and Dunford went to target that the President of the United States was. So they went. Other Marines went. I honestly believe that during that trip Dunford and Kelly were both kids who grew up in a city called Boston, which is just north of New York.
I grew up in that area, although I’ve lost my accent. And I believe that these two guys were sort of smoking and joking. And somebody overheard it and then told The Atlantic. That’s a long way of telling you what I think happened. I don’t believe the president, did not want to go.
The idea that Trump would stand down from an opportunity to dominate the stage at a sacred battlefield and cemetery, and instead hang out for six hours in the embassy, that’s absurd. And so the idea is that these guys are smoking and joking. Telling stories and swapping things around and somebody heard it. And it got repeated. And you know, who knows? Kelly himself may have repeated it later on. Somebody heard Kelly said it.
Kelly may have been joking to somebody off the record. Kelly may have said something to the reporter saying off the record, you can never use my name, but I really think this is what Trump thinks. That’s fine. But it’s been what? Five or six days and nobody has come forward with any corroborating quotes or evidence?
But a ton of people who were in that entourage, there aren’t 100 people hanging out with the president. There are only a handful of people inside that bubble, and everyone in that bubble is coming out to say that it didn’t happen. And so now The Atlantic is stuck. And the longer this goes on, the more they are stuck. They thought they had a story. They ran with it. It would have never run in The Atlantic 20 years ago, but it ran in The Atlantic now.
Carmichael: I think the point you are making now is that in the world we live in today, it is completely possible that people at The Atlantic decided to make this up out of whole cloth. It could have been that they were sitting around. Because anybody can say unnamed sources and then say anything they want to. Anybody can do that.
McCabe: I think it’s tied. I think there is a lot more ground then, because there are people coming forward who say yeah I heard it. Right?
Carmichael: I heard what?
McCabe: I heard the stories.
McCabe: And I think that what happened is that obviously this story was in the can for months. They were working on it. They had it set. They had it lined up with the Lincoln Project. They had it lined up with the Biden campaign. They had it lined up with the Democratic National Committee. These videos that pop up out of thin air, obviously there is coordination, but it didn’t happen. That’s the problem they have. It’s a great story, but it didn’t happen.
Carmichael: Neil, for two years we were treated by the media that Trump colluded with Russia, and that didn’t happen. And there were tons of unnamed sources corroborating a story that did not happen. So all I’m saying is that one of two things is the case in the case of the Russia hoax. Either the media made it up and claimed that they had heard it from unnamed sources. Or, there were unnamed sources that lied to the media. But it could have been either one.
McCabe: I know where you are going with this. But Kelly should have denied this right away.
Leahy: Why didn’t he?
McCabe: The reason why he didn’t deny it right away, or he hasn’t denied it yet, is because he knows that he was making jokes with Dunford that somebody overheard, and that he joked to the wrong people and it was repeated.
And so he either says I did it or I didn’t do it. There is no doubt in my mind that this thing goes back to his doorstep. I don’t need to speak it as the fact, I’m just saying this is my theory. I don’t think it came from Dunford. But Kelly is in a very bad spot, because obviously he loathes the president.
Leahy: He hates the president.
McCabe: Well of course and so does Dunford. Dunford on the Christmas after the election toured Iraq and Afghanistan with the medal of honor recipient who endorsed Hillary Clinton. That was a message to the troops.
Listen to the third hour here:
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Photo “Trump Troops” by The White House CC1.0