US President Donald Trump is facing a backlash over reports he mocked American soldiers killed in action as “losers” and “suckers”.
The alleged remarks were first reported in the Atlantic Magazine and then separately by the Associated Press.
The president denies making them, while his defence secretary said Mr Trump had the “highest respect” for the military.
Veterans’ groups were among those to attack the president over the reports.
Progressive group VoteVets posted a video of families whose children were killed in action. “You don’t know what it is to sacrifice,” says one.
Paul Rieckhoff of the Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America, tweeted: “Who is really surprised by this?”
Analysts say the comments could prove damaging with the president needing support from military voters as he bids for re-election.
What is Trump reported to have said?
According to The Atlantic, Mr Trump cancelled a visit to a US cemetery outside Paris in 2018 because he said it was “filled with losers”.
Four sources told the magazine 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.
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.
Back in 2018 the White House said the visit was cancelled because bad weather had grounded the president’s helicopter. This account was backed up in a recent book by President Trump’s former National Security Adviser John Bolton, who has been a vocal critic of Mr Trump.
The Atlantic’s reporting was based on anonymous sources but Associated Press said they confirmed the remarks independently.
What has the reaction been?
On top of the comments from veterans, President Trump’s challenger in November’s presidential election, Joe Biden, responded by saying his rival was “unfit” to lead.
“If the article is true – and it appears to be, based on other things he’s said – it is absolutely damning. It is a disgrace.”
Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth, a veteran who lost both legs while serving in Iraq, said President Trump “liked to use the US military for his own ego”.
President Trump has pushed back hard against the reports, calling them “fake news”.
“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,” he said. “It is a disgraceful situation by a magazine that’s a terrible magazine.”
Where do Trump and the US military stand?
It is complicated. The US president has often touted his support, and Pew Research Center last year found that veterans were generally supportive of him as commander-in-chief, with 57% in favour. Three-fifths of the veterans identified as Republican, the research found.
But there have been previous spats and controversies.
He caused outrage by saying the late Senator John McCain, a prisoner of war in Vietnam, was not a “war hero” saying: “I like people who weren’t captured.”
Mr Trump had a public row with the parents of a soldier who criticised him at the Democratic National Convention when he was running for president.
President Trump has never served in uniform. He 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.