President Trump has denied accusations that he made disparaging remarks about US soldiers who were captured or killed in battle.
According to The Atlantic magazine, Mr Trump cancelled a visit to a US cemetery outside Paris in 2018 because he said it was “filled with losers”.
The allegations have since been corroborated by two senior military officials in a story by AP news agency.
But in a tweet, the president denounced the claims as “made up fake news”.
During a visit to France in 2018, Mr Trump cancelled a visit to the Aise-Marne American Cemetery, and at the time the White House blamed poor weather.
However four sources told The Atlantic he rejected the idea of visiting because the rain would dishevel his hair, and he did not believe it important to honour America’s war dead.
Mr Trump called off a visit to the Aise-Marne cemetery, where those killed in the Battle of Belleau Wood are buried
During the same trip, the president also allegedly referred to 1,800 US soldiers who died at Belleau Wood as “suckers”. The battle helped to prevent a German advance on Paris during World War One and is venerated by the US Marine Corps.
Three sources told The Atlantic that, on at least two occasions, Mr Trump also called former President George HW Bush a “loser” for being shot down by the Japanese while serving as a Navy pilot during World War Two.
Mr Trump has been criticised in the past for remarks about veteran John McCain
“He can’t fathom the idea of doing something for someone other than himself,” an unnamed, retired military general told The Atlantic. “He just thinks that anyone who does anything when there’s no direct personal gain to be had is a sucker. There’s no money in serving the nation.”
Speaking with reporters, Mr Trump called The Atlantic’s report “unthinkable”.
“To think that I would make statements negative to our military and our fallen heroes when nobody’s done what I’ve done with the budgets, with the military budgets, with getting pay raises for our military,” said the president. “It is a disgraceful situation by a magazine that’s a terrible magazine.”
Trump and the US military: Friends or foe?
Mr Trump has been criticised in the past for his comments on military veterans. In 2015 he questioned the heroism of Republican Senator John McCain, who was captured during the Vietnam War.
“I like people who weren’t captured,” he said during an interview.
Mr Trump received five deferments from a military draft during the Vietnam War – four for academic reasons and one for bone spurs, a calcium build-up in the heels.
Mr Trump also called McCain a “loser” for his unsuccessful run at the US presidency in 2008, something he falsely claimed he had never done in a tweet on Tuesday.
“I supported him for president, I raised a million dollars for him, that’s a lot of money. I supported him, he lost, he let us down, you know he lost. So I never liked him as much after that, because I don’t like losers,” Mr Trump said in an interview in 2015.
US troops pan ‘foolish’ bombshell
People in the military world are stunned by the remarks that Mr Trump reportedly made about US soldiers killed in combat, the latest in a series of surprising comments from a commander-in-chief.
“What an ignorant, ignorant fool,” says Gary Solis, a former US Marines judge, adding: “I pity anyone who is so lacking in common understanding and appreciation for military service.”
The reaction of Mr Solis is shared by many of those who have served in the military and also by those who are currently in the US armed forces.
Mr Trump’s alleged comment about the slain soldiers is also testing the resolve of those in the military who support him.
His popularity among US troops has slipped, according to Military Times: since last year, those who have a favourable view of him has dropped from 42% to 38%. His latest remarks could drive more of them away.