Bill Owens, the father of a Navy SEAL killed in a Jan. 28 raid in Yemen, refused to meet with President Donald Trump when the Naval non-commissioned officer’s body was returned to the United States.
“I told them I didn’t want to make a scene about it, but my conscience wouldn’t let me talk to him,” Bill Owens, the father of Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, told the Miami Herald in an interview.
Owens died and four other Americans were wounded in the raid that killed 14 al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula militants one week after Trump took office, marking the first combat death of the Trump administration.
Trump and his daughter Ivanka went to Dover to witness the arrival of Owens’ body. His father told the Herald that when he was informed Trump was on his way, he said, “I’m sorry, I don’t want to see him … I told them I don’t want to meet the president.”
At the time, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump “offered his sincerest condolences to Officer Owens’ wife, his father and their three children.” The Herald reported the president met with other family members in a separate room.
Bill Owens lashed out at Trump over his decision to go ahead with the raid in the nascent days of his administration.
“Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn’t even barely a week into his administration? Why?” Bill Owens said. “For two years prior, there were no boots on the ground in Yemen — everything was missiles and drones — because there was not a target worth one American life. Now, all of a sudden we had to make this grand display?”
Former President Barack Obama had been briefed on the plan, but held off because of the military determination that the soonest it could be launched would be after he left office.
The White House’s first characterization of the Yemen raid as a “success” has come under criticism, including by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
“I would not describe any operation that results in the loss of American life as a success,” McCain said in a statement earlier this month.
Spicer called McCain’s statement “a disservice to the life of Chief Ryan Owens.”
“I think anyone who undermines the success of that raid owes an apology and disservice to the life of Chief Owens,” Spicer said. “The raid, the action that was taken in Yemen was a huge success. American lives will be saved because of it. Future attacks will be prevented.”