President Donald Trump has sent a $25,000 gift to the father of Cpl. Dillon Baldridge, a 22-year-old Army corporal killed in Afghanistan in June, several months after first making the pledge during a personal phone call with the family, the White House confirmed for ABC News.
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In an interview with ABC affiliate WTVD, Dillon Baldridge's stepmother, Jessie Baldridge, said she and her husband, Chris Baldridge of Zebulon, North Carolina, did not expect the president to send a check.
"We were kind of joking about it," she said. "Like, this summer we were actually hanging out on the porch, and Chris was, like, you know, just hanging out on the porch waiting for a check we're never going to get. We just thought maybe he was saying something nice."
Jessie Baldridge told WTVD that no amount of money could replace what they lost when Dillon Baldridge was killed and stressed that neither she nor her husband is upset with Trump but they are feeling flustered by the amount of media attention they are receiving.
"The money doesn't mean anything to me at all, not even a little," she said. "He didn't have to say that. He could have just said, 'I'm sorry for your loss' and 'We really appreciate your service and your sacrifice. Have a nice day.'"
Chris Baldridge previously told The Washington Post he appreciated Trump's call and was stunned by his generosity. "I could not believe he was saying that, and I wish I had it recorded, because the man did say this," Baldridge told the paper. "He said, 'No other president has ever done something like this,' but he said, 'I'm going to do it.'"
But then, Baldridge told the Post, the only thing he received from the White House was a letter of condolence — no check.
"I opened it up and read it, and I was hoping to see a check in there, to be honest," he said. "I know it was kind of far-fetched thinking. But I was like, 'Damn, no check.' Just a letter saying, 'I'm sorry.'"
Dillon Baldridge was killed in June when an Afghan security officer opened fire on his American counterparts. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
ABC News has been unable to reach Chris Baldridge. The White House confirmed Trump's call and gift, telling ABC News "the check has been sent."
White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said any suggestion that he didn't intend to follow through on his pledge, despite the months that have passed, is unfair.
"It's disgusting that the media is taking something that should be recognized as a generous and sincere gesture, made privately by the president, and using it to advance the media's biased agenda," she said.
"There is a substantial process that can involve multiple agencies anytime the president interacts with the public, especially when transmitting personal funds," a White House official told ABC News. "The check has been in the pipeline since the president's initial call with the father. The president has personally followed up several times to ensure that the check was being sent. As stated earlier, the check has been sent."
The donation was first reported by the Post.
Word of the pledge to Chris Baldridge came as Trump faces growing scrutiny of his handling of Gold Star families as president.
On Tuesday he boasted that he has called "virtually" all the families of fallen service members since he has taken office and claimed, erroneously, that "most" other presidents did not make such calls. The Associated Press reported Wednesday that the families of at least two service members who died overseas during his presidency have not heard from him by phone or mail.
"The president has made contact with all of the families that have been presented to him through the White House Military Office," press secretary Sarah Sanders said today. "All of the individuals that the president has been presented with through the proper protocol have been contacted through that process."
Sanders added, "There's never going to be enough that a president can do for the families of those that are killed in action. The point the president was making is that there's a different process. Sometimes they call. Sometimes they write letters. Sometimes they engage directly. The comments were certainly, I think, taken very far out of context by the media."