Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin blamed her veteran son’s domestic violence arrest this week on both his post-traumatic stress and what she called President Obama’s lack of “respect and honor” for American service members.
The comments, which came at an Iowa rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, drew condemnation from advocates who accused her of playing to stereotypes of broken returning veterans and politicizing mental health issues.
Reports surfaced Tuesday that Palin’s oldest child, 26-year-old Track Palin, was arrested in Alaska and charged with domestic violence after his girlfriend accused him of beating her and threatening to kill her and himself.
As a private first class in the Army Reserve, he deployed to Iraq in 2008. At Trump's rally, the former Alaska governor said her son's combat experience changed him.
“My son, like so many others, they come back a bit different,” the former Alaska governor said. “They come back hardened.
“They come back wondering if there is that respect for what their fellow soldiers and airmen and every other member of the military have given so sacrificially to this country, and that starts at the top. It’s a shame that our military personnel even have to question, have to wonder if they’re respected anymore.”
Palin called Trump the best choice for president because of the respect for military service he’ll bring to the office.
“I can certainly relate with other families who kind of feel these ramifications of PTSD and some of the woundedness that our soldiers do return with,” she said. “And it makes me realize more than ever, it is now or never for the sake of America’s finest that we’ll have that commander in chief who will respect them and honor them.”
Veterans groups have repeatedly warned against using PTSD diagnoses as an excuse for criminal behavior in veterans, saying studies suggest that the mental health problems make individuals more likely to hurt themselves but not others.
White House officials did not offer any immediate comment to the charges.
Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.