Former defense secretary James Mattis responded to Donald Trump’s criticism of him by referencing how the US president avoided the draft during the Vietnam war.
“I earned my spurs on the battlefield; Donald Trump earned his spurs from the doctor,” he said.
The former general was a keynote speaker at the Al Smith Memorial Foundation dinner on Thursday when he made the comments in response to Mr Trump calling him the “world’s most overrated general”.
The president had reportedly made the comments during an earlier “acrimonious” White House meeting on his decision to pull American forces from northern Syria.
The meeting, which was meant to be a bipartisan discussion between the White House and members of congress, broke up after a tense exchange of words between Mr Trump and house speaker Nancy Pelosi.
During the event, Mr Mattis’ comments about the need for US troops in Syria during an NBC interview, were brought up. Mr Trump reportedly interjected and made the disparaging comments about his former defense secretary.
Later in the week, at the white-tie gala event on Thursday, Mr Mattis countered the criticism with pointed quips at the president.
“I’m not just an overrated general. I am the greatest, the world’s most overrated,” he said, echoing the president's use of hyperbole.
He went on to describe Trump’s comments as an honour.
“I’m honoured to be considered that by Donald Trump, because he also called Meryl Streep an overrated actress,” he said. “So I guess I’m the Meryl Streep of generals. And frankly, that sounds pretty good to me.
“You do have to admit that between me and Meryl, at least we’ve had some victories.”
Donald Trump had previously lashed out at the actor after she criticised him during a Golden Globes speech.
Mr Mattis resigned from his role as defense secretary in 2018 citing critical differences in opinion with the US head of state, specifically on how to treat allies and his approach to key issues on the world stage.
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