Just a few days ago, in honor of his 69th birthday, the right wing site The Political Insider posted a list of George W. Bush’s “Top 10 Classiest Moments.” The top two of those moments show Bush doing charity work with groups of disabled veterans. That was an interesting choice of “classy” moments, given that many of those vets would not be disabled were it not for Bush’s war in Iraq. But there is a moment involving Bush and veterans that some groups are saying was definitely not classy.
ABC News reports that, in 2012, Bush spoke at a fundraiser for the charity, Helping a Hero. The charity helps veterans who were severely wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan. Officials confirmed that Bush was paid $100,000 to speak at that event, and was flown to it on a chartered jet that cost $20,000. The charity also confirmed that a year earlier, Laura Bush was paid a $50,000 speaking fee by the group.
Former Marine Corps Sergeant Eddie Wright, who lost parts of both arms in Iraq, tells ABC News:
For him to be paid to raise money for veterans that were wounded in combat under his orders, I don’t think that’s right. You sent me to war. I was doing what you told me to do, gladly for you and our country and I have no regrets. But it’s kind of a slap in the face.
Charity officials defended Bush’s fee, issuing a statement saying that Bush’s appearance helps raise “significant funds” for the group. They didn’t mention, however, that if Bush had appeared without charging them, they would have had an extra $100,000 to use to help veterans.
According to ABC News, neither former president Clinton, nor George H.W. Bush charge speaking fees for addressing veterans’ groups. A spokesperson for Jimmy Carter says that he doesn’t have a set policy, but usually donates his fee to the Carter Center. Former defense secretary Robert Gates also spoke to the “Helping a Hero” group in 2014, and did not charge a fee.
Christopher Tritico, a lawyer for Helping a Hero, says he doesn’t know why President Bush charged the charity a fee. “I think it’s a valid question for the former President,” he said.
Here’s a video of a group of veterans who spoke to ABC News about the issue. They’re not too happy.
Featured image via screen capture from ABC News