The father of a fallen soldier has said Donald Trump offered him $25,000 after the death of his son, but the cheque never arrived.
Chris Baldridge, the father of 22-year-old Dillon Baldridge, who was killed in Afghanistan in June, told The Washington Post that the President offered him the money (almost £20,000) during a phone call, saying he would direct his staff to establish an online fundraiser for the family.
But, Mr Baldridge said, the money never materialised.
A White House spokesman said late on Wednesday that a cheque had been sent, saying the media was advancing a “biased agenda” by following up on the Baldridge story.
But the case added fuel to a controversy over Mr Trump’s response to military families who have lost loved ones.
The Pentagon’s official military deaths benefits programme offers families $100,000.
But Mr Baldridge expressed frustration with the programme in the phone call with the President, telling him his former wife would receive the money as their son’s beneficiary, despite the fact that he can “barely rub two nickels together”.
“He said, ‘I’m going to write you a cheque out of my personal account for $25,000,’ and I was just floored,” Mr Baldridge told the Washington Post.
“I could not believe he was saying that, and I wish I had it recorded because the man did say this. He said, ‘No other president has ever done something like this,’ but he said, ‘I’m going to do it.’ ”
But Mr Baldridge said he never received any money, only a letter of condolence.
“I opened it up and read it, and I was hoping to see a cheque in there, to be honest,” he said.
“I know it was kind of far-fetched thinking. But I was like, ‘Damn, no cheque.’ Just a letter saying ‘I’m sorry.’ ”
Responding to the story on Wednesday, White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said in an email that “the cheque has been sent.”
“It’s disgusting that the media is taking something that should be recognised as a generous and sincere gesture, made privately by the President, and using it to advance the media’s biased agenda,” she added.
It comes amid a row over the President’s reported remarks to the widow of a soldier who was killed in action in Niger this month, Sergeant La David Johnson.
Mr Trump was reported to have told the soldier’s widow that her husband “knew what he signed up for”. The President denies having made the remark, which was reported by Congresswoman Frederica Wilson.
Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2017
Sgt Johnson’s mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, said the President had shown disrespect.
On Monday, the President said some of his predecessors “didn’t do anything” to console relatives of fallen soldiers.
The Associated Press reached out to the families of all 43 people who have died in military service since Mr Trump became President.
It was able to make contact with half of the families.
Of those the AP spoke to, relatives of nine said they had heard from the President by phone or mail, with several saying they had received a lot of support from Washington.
One woman who lost her step-son said: “We will not speak ill of a President who adores his troops.”
Relatives of nine others said they hadn’t been contacted, despite Mr Trump this week saying he has “called every family of somebody that’s died, and it’s the hardest call to make.”