Presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg has accused Donald Trump of faking a disability in order to avoid being drafted for the Vietnam War.
Buttigieg, who in 2014 took a seven-month leave of absence from his mayoral duties to deploy to Afghanistan as a lieutenant in the Navy Reserve, made the comments during an interview with the Washington Post.
Asked if Trump should have served in the War, Buttigieg responded: “I have a pretty dim view of his decision to use his privileged status to fake a disability in order to avoid serving in Vietnam.”
Post reporter Robert Costa asked Buttigieg if he “believed [Trump] faked a disability?”
“Do you believe he has a disability?” Buttigieg responded. When Costa retorted “I’m asking you,” Buttigieg said, “Yeah, at least not that one.”
While the audience laughed and applauded Buttigieg’s comeback, he was quick to note that the issue was “really important.”
“I don’t mean to trivialize disability,” he said, “but I think that’s exactly what [Trump] did.”
Buttigieg then said that Trump’s mocking of disabled people — he was widely criticized during the 2016 campaign for mocking a disabled reporter — was one of “many affronts to basic decency that this president has inflicted on this country.”
He slammed Trump for allegedly “manipulating the ability to get a diagnosis,” noting that if Trump had instead been a conscientious objector, he would “admire that.”
“But this is somebody who, I think it’s fairly obvious to most of us, took advantage of the fact he was the child of a multi-millionaire in order to pretend to be disabled so that somebody could go to war in his place,” Buttigieg said.
Trump used five separate deferments to avoid being drafted for the war — four by attending college, and a fifth from a doctor which claimed that he was suffering from “bone spurs.”
Trump insists that the deferment was legitimate, but the New York Times reported last year that the children of the podiatrist who issued the diagnosis claimed he did so as a favor to Trump’s father, Fred Trump.
Speaking before Congress earlier this year, Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen also claimed that Trump had faked the bone spurs to avoid the draft.
“Mr. Trump claimed it was because of a bone spur, but when I asked for medical records, he gave me none and said there was no surgery,” Cohen said. He claimed that Trump had told him, “‘You think I’m stupid, I wasn’t going to Vietnam.'”
Addressing Trump’s criticism of him in recent weeks — including ranting on Twitter about Fox News hosting the Democratic candidate for a town hall — Buttigieg clapped back in a withering takedown.
“I don’t have a problem standing up to someone who was working on Season 7 of Celebrity Apprentice when I was packing my bags for Afghanistan,” Buttigieg said.
Buttigieg also discussed Trump’s tweets against him during the town hall on May 19, calling his Twitter feed “grotesque.”
“The tweets are — I don’t care,” Buttigieg said, drawing cheers and loud applause from the Fox News audience.
Wallace noted that Trump’s tweets are “a very effective way” to reach “tens of millions of Americans,” to which Buttigieg retorted that it was a “very effective way to command the attention of the media.”
“We need to make sure that we’re changing the channel from this show that he’s created,” Buttigieg continued. “And I get it. It’s mesmerizing. It’s hard for anybody to look away. Me too. It is the nature of grotesque things that you can’t look away.”