Donald Trump accused of exploiting widow of Navy SEAL killed in botched Yemen raid

Mr Trump said the soldier's widow 'broke the record' for the level of applause

Andrew Buncombe
New York
Wednesday 01 March 2017 04:53 GMT
Trump comforts grieving widow of US Navy SEAL by congratulating her on amount of applause

Last week, the father of slain US Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens, refused to meet with the president. Rather, Bill Owens said he wanted a full investigation into the Yemen raid that left his son dead, injured three other US troops and killed up to 20 civilians.

“I told them I didn’t want to make a scene about it, but my conscience wouldn’t let me talk to him,” Mr Owens told the Miami Herald.

But on Tuesday night, in his address to the joint houses of Congress, Donald Trump honoured the widow of the special forces soldier - a move that some commentators believed was presidential, but others considered simply exploitative.

"The challenges we face as a Nation are great. But our people are even greater. And none are greater or braver than those who fight for America in uniform,” said Mr Trump.

“We are blessed to be joined tonight by Carryn Owens, the widow of a US Navy Special Operator, Senior Chief William “Ryan” Owens. Ryan died as he lived: a warrior, and a hero - battling against terrorism and securing our Nation.”

At that moment, the cameras moved to Ms Owens and she received rapturous applause. She then stood up.

Democrat women wore white to Trump's congress address for good reason

Mr Trump then continued: “I just spoke to General Mattis, who reconfirmed that, and I quote, ‘Ryan was a part of a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies’.”

He added: “Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity. For as the Bible teaches us, there is no greater act of love than to lay down one's life for one’s friends. Ryan laid down his life for his friends, for his country, and for our freedom — we will never forget him.”

Mr Trump’s comments were warmly praised by some commentators. Van Jones, a CNN analyst who has frequently been critical of the president, said: “That was one of the most extraordinary moments in American politics. Period.”

Former presidential advisor David Gergen, said the point was one of the few times he agreed with Mr Jones.

But others said Mr Trump had made cynical use of the dead solider’s widow, especially given the comments of the man’s father.

“Trump sent a soldier off to die in a half-baked raid and then used his grieving widow as a prop. I'm still processing this,” said one commentator, Jordan Weissmann.

Another poster on Twitter, using the handle @bmaggiemay, said: “Damn you #Trump 4 exploiting the widow of the Navy SEAL you just murdered.”

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