WASHINGTON, Oct. 17 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Donald Trump defended his controversial claim Tuesday that his predecessors didn't properly console families of slain soldiers, invoking the death of the son of White House chief of staff John Kelly.
"For the most part, to the best of my knowledge, I think I've called every family of somebody that's died, and it's the hardest call to make," Trump said Tuesday morning during an interview with Fox News radio host Brian Kilmeade.
"As far as other representatives, I don't know, I mean you could ask General Kelly, did he get a call from Obama?" Trump added.
Kelly's son, Marine Corps Lieutenant Robert Kelly, was killed by a landmine in Afghanistan in late 2010.
Kelly, former secretary of Homeland Security for the Trump administration, was appointed in late July to replace Reince Priebus as White House chief of staff.
A White House official said Kelly didn't receive a call from then President Barack Obama at that time, but Obama hosted a breakfast in May, 2011 for Gold Star families, attended by Kelly and his wife.
"You could ask other people. I don't know what Obama's policy was," Trump said Tuesday.
"I write letters and I also call. I really speak for myself. I don't know what Bush did. I don't know what Obama did," he said.
The president's comments came after he said during a White House press conference Monday that most of his predecessors, including Obama, did not call the families of fallen service members.
Trump was answering a question about why he had spoken publicly about the killing of four U.S. soldiers who got ambushed by Islamic State (IS) fighters in Niger earlier this month.
"I've written them personal letters," Trump said. "I will, at some point during the period of time, call the parents and the families -- because I have done that, traditionally."
"So, the traditional way -- if you look at president Obama and other presidents, most of them didn't make calls, a lot of them didn't make calls," Trump stressed. "I like to call when it's appropriate."
But the president backtracked and blamed "the generals" for giving him inaccurate information when pressed about how he could assert that Obama did not make calls to families of fallen troopers.
"President Obama, I think, probably did sometimes, and maybe sometimes he didn't. I don't know. That's what I was told. All I can do is (to) ask my generals," he explained.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement later Tuesday that the president had spoken to "all four of the families of those who were killed in action in Niger."
"He offered condolences on behalf of a grateful nation and assured them their family's extraordinary sacrifice to the country will never be forgotten," she added.
Trump's remarks on his predecessors and how they responded to fallen service members have drawn sharp criticism, most notably from aides of the previous Obama administration.
Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser, called Trump's claim "an outrageous and disrespectful lie even by Trump standards."