President Trump’s tweets have consequences. Look no further than Marie Tillman, the widow of Pat Tillman, who was killed in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan in 2004.
Pat was an NFL player who gave up his Arizona Cardinals contract to serve the United States in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. His life has been an inspirational story for football fans and members of the military, but his death has also been subject to exploitation by political partisans.
On Monday morning, the president’s Twitter account retweeted a pro-Trump account that uses Pat’s name and face. The tweet promoted Trump’s stand-for-the-anthem rhetoric against NFL players who have held silent protests during the National Anthem.
The president’s retweet – shared with his 39 million followers – received widespread attention on Monday, including from Pat’s widow, Marie.
She has been sharply critical of the president in the past. She believes Pat would be too, if he were still alive. Pat was known for his liberal politics.
Marie released a statement to CNN on Monday night. She said she hoped Trump would read it.
“As a football player and soldier, Pat inspired countless Americans to unify,” Marie said. “It is my hope that his memory should always remind people that we must come together.”
“Pat’s service, along with that of every man and woman’s service, should never be politicized in a way that divides us. We are too great of a country for that,” she wrote, subtly invoking Trump’s “make America great again” slogan.
“Those that serve fight for the American ideals of freedom, justice and democracy,” she wrote. “They and their families know the cost of that fight. I know the very personal costs in a way I feel acutely every day. The very action of self-expression and the freedom to speak from one’s heart — no matter those views — is what Pat and so many other Americans have given their lives for. Even if they didn’t always agree with those views.”
Marie’s statement concluded: “It is my sincere hope that our leaders both understand and learn from the lessons of Pat’s life and death, and also those of so many other brave Americans.”