“Well, Hitler did a lot of good things.”
That was reportedly uttered by former President Donald J. Trump to his then chief of staff John Kelly during a 2018 visit to Europe to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
The remark that supposedly “stunned” Kelly is included in the upcoming book “Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost” by Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender that hits shelves on July 13. The Guardian got its hands on an early copy and published the reported Hitler comment in a story that went viral on Wednesday, and drew outrage across social media.
Bender wrote that Trump made the remark while Kelly was giving a brief history lesson that “reminded the president which countries were on which side during the conflict” and “connected the dots from the first world war to the second world war and all of Hitler’s atrocities.”
According to Bender, unnamed sources reported that Kelly “told the president that he was wrong, but Trump was undeterred,” and the commander-in-chief cited Germany’s economic recovery under Hitler during the 1930s as a positive thing.
“Kelly pushed back again,” Bender wrote, “and argued that the German people would have been better off poor than subjected to the Nazi genocide.” What’s more, the Guardian noted that Kelly reportedly told Trump that even if his claim about the German economy under Nazi rule was true, “you cannot ever say anything supportive of Adolf Hitler. You just can’t.”
Many critics on Twitter felt the same. Hitler’s Nazi regime was responsible for the state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jews. It also targeted other groups it considered racially and biologically inferior, such as Black people, people with disabilities, gay people, the Roma (also known as Gypsies) and Soviet prisoners of war.
Others referenced a September 2020 presidential debate with Joe Biden, when Trump would not denounce white supremacists and militia groups, and instead told the far-right Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.” The backlash to that incident led him to tell Fox News host Sean Hannity a few days later that, “I condemn all white supremacists. I condemn the Proud Boys.”
And some called out Kelly in particular for not quitting on the spot when he heard these remarks. This led “John Kelly” to trend on Twitter on Wednesday morning with more than 12,000 tweets.
The former president’s office was not immediately available for comment, but Trump’s spokeswoman Liz Harrington told the Guardian that, “This is totally false. President Trump never said this. It is made-up fake news, probably by a general who was incompetent and was fired.”
Kelly has appeared more ready to dish the dirt on the former president since he was removed from his post at the end of 2018.
In a book by New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Michael Schmidt that hit last summer, Kelly was quoted as saying that having to say no to Trump was like ‘French kissing a chainsaw.’” Another book by ABC News corespondent Jonathan Karl released last summer reported that Kelly called working for Trump “my hell.”