"When my brother was killed (in Iraq War), Pres Bush listened while I screamed at him & then held me as I sobbed, you fat f**king liar," Delilia O'Malley tweeted at President Trump.
Her fury was echoed by Gold Star families and the staffers of former presidents, who accused President Trump of blatantly lying.
The Republican leader said in a news conference on Monday he had written letters to the families of four soldiers killed in an October 4 ambush in Niger and planned to call them, crediting himself with taking extra steps in honouring the dead properly.
"Most of them didn't make calls," he said of his predecessors. He said it's possible that President Barack Obama "did sometimes" but "other presidents did not call."
Trump just claimed no President has ever called families of fallen troops, insulting thousands of Gold Star Families pic.twitter.com/G3gW160Wfn— Vets Against Trump (@commondefense) October 16, 2017
POTUS 43 & 44 and first ladies cared deeply, worked tirelessly for the serving, the fallen, and their families. Not politics. Sacred Trust.— GEN(R) Marty Dempsey (@Martin_Dempsey) October 17, 2017
TRUMP DOUBLE DOWNS ON RANT
Mr Trump on Tuesday doubled down on his comments, saying reporters should ask his chief of staff, General John Kelly, if Mr Obama called him after his son, Robert Kelly, was killed by a landmine.
First Lieutenant Robert Kelly died in action while serving with the Marines in Afghanistan in 2010.
"You could ask General Kelly, did he get a call from Obama? I don't know what Obama's policy was," Mr Trump said on Fox News Radio.
"I really speak for myself. I am not speaking for other people. I don't know what (George W) Bush did. I don't know what Obama did. I believe his policy was somewhat different than my policy. I can tell you, my policy is I have called every one of them."
A White House official on Tuesday told NBC News that President Obama did not call General Kelly.
But ABC News in the US reports General Kelly and his wife attended a breakfast for Gold Star families at the White House in 2011 and sat at first lady Michelle Obama's table.
The breakfast, hosted by the Obamas, was scheduled six months after the death of General Kelly's son.
JUST IN: President Obama did not call Gen. John Kelly when his son was killed in Afghanistan in 2010, White House official tells NBC News— NBC Politics (@NBCPolitics) October 17, 2017
President Trump's comments triggered a visceral reaction from many who witnessed past presidents grieve with the families of fallen soldiers.
"He's a deranged animal," Alyssa Mastromonaco, a former deputy chief of staff to President Obama, tweeted about President Trump. With an expletive, she called his statement in the Rose Garden a lie.
Mr Obama's former White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that his boss would repeatedly "show his enormous respect ... for those who had paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country" through various visits and meetings as well as phone calls and letters.
Eric Holder, President Obama's former attorney-general, called on Mr Trump to tell the truth.
"Stop the damn lying - you're the President," he tweeted.
Stop the damn lying - you’re the President. I went to Dover AFB with 44 and saw him comfort the families of both the fallen military & DEA. pic.twitter.com/HhE4KbTBkJ— Eric Holder (@EricHolder) October 17, 2017
President George W. Bush, even at the height of two wars, "wrote all the families of the fallen," said Freddy Ford, spokesman for the ex-president.
He said President Bush also called or met "hundreds, if not thousands" of family members of the war dead.
President Obama's official photographer, Pete Souza, said he photographed the Democrat leader's "meeting with hundreds of wounded soldiers, and family members of those killed in action."
Others recalled his frequent visits with Gold Star families, and travels to Walter Reed, Dover and other venues with families of the dead, and with the wounded.
Retired General Martin E. Dempsey, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed these contacts, tweeting: "POTUS 43 & 44 and first ladies cared deeply, worked tirelessly for the serving, the fallen, and their families. Not politics. Sacred Trust."
The President and First Lady console Paul and Janet, parents of Army Sgt. 1st Class Jared C. Monti, who had just been awarded posthumously with the Medal of Honor for his actions in Afghanistan. This was the first of 52 Medals of Honor, the nation’s highest award for military valor, that President Obama bestowed during his two terms. I also photographed him meeting with hundreds of wounded soldiers, and family members of those killed in action.
WHITE HOUSE DEFENDS TRUMP
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said later that President Trump "wasn't criticising predecessors, but stating a fact."
She argued that presidents didn't always call families of those killed in battle: "Sometimes they call, sometimes they send a letter, other times they have the opportunity to meet family members in person."
She said anyone claiming a former president had called every family was "mistaken."
President Trump's relations with Gold Star families have not always been smooth, dating from his belittlement of the parents of slain US soldier Humayun Khan, who was Muslim.
President Trump was angered when the soldier's father, Khizr Khan, was given a platform to criticise him at the Democratic National Convention.
MCCAIN BLASTS 'HALF-BAKED' NATIONALISM
Senator John McCain has blasted "half-baked" nationalism and praised international co-operation in a speech on Monday night that appeared to contrast President Trump's emphasis on putting "America first."
The former POW and Arizona Republican called the US "the last best hope on earth" while giving an acceptance speech for the National Constitution Centre's Liberty Medal, reports The New York Post, citing a Politico report.
Senator McCain said it was the country's duty to lead instead of blaming others for our problems.
"To fear the world we have organised and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain 'the last best hope of earth' for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history," he said.
Senator McCain added that the US has a moral obligation to continue our tradition of spreading American ideals and would suffer if that commitment was not met.
He said: "We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil. We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don't. We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn't deserve to."
While not mentioning President Trump by name, Senator McCain's speech was a sharp contrast to President Trump's habits of shunning international institutions such as NATO and the United Nations.
- With The New York Post.