CLAREMONT, N.H. — Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden slammed President Trump on Friday for his comments about the injuries suffered by U.S. troops in Iraq resulting from the Iranian missile strike earlier this month, claiming that Trump “brushed off” possible cases of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).
Biden, speaking Friday at a campaign event in New Hampshire, took aim at Trump, saying: “This week he brushed off the injuries sustained by those brave troops who were on the other side of the Iranian bombardment and missile attack in Iraq from Iran. And he said while they were being evaluated for traumatic brain injuries, he said no, they just have headaches.”
And the former vice president emphasized that there are “300,000 estimated people coming home from these wars suffering from post-traumatic stress as a consequence of being exposed to the traumatic brain injuries. And the idea that [it] is taken so lightly, I find it quite frankly disgusting.”
The Pentagon had said that at least 11 U.S. service members were transported to hospitals in Kuwait and Germany earlier this month after an Iranian missile attack at an air base in northern Iraq. The assault was in response to the American drone strike ordered by President Trump that killed Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani. Some of those who were injured suffered possible cases of traumatic brain injuries.
The Pentagon now says 34 troops have been diagnosed with concussions from the Iranian missile attack on a base in Iraq more than two weeks ago, and half of those American troops have returned to duty in Iraq, according to a Defense Department spokesman; eight were sent to the U.S. for further treatment.
Asked on Wednesday about the injuries, the president said at a news conference before departing Davos, Switzerland, that "I heard they had headaches and a couple of other things,” adding: “I can report, it's not very serious."
When a reporter asked if he considered potential traumatic brain injury serious, Trump responded: "I don't consider them very serious injuries relative to other injuries that I've seen."
Biden -- who’s late son Beau served in the war in Iraq -- spoke around the same time as the Pentagon reported that 34 troops have now been diagnosed with concussions.
The former vice president also took aim at Trump over the president’s announcement this week that he will expand the current ban on travel from certain countries -- including some that are majority Muslim -- from coming to the U.S. The president called those restrictions, enacted two years ago, a “very powerful ban” that’s necessary to ensure national security.
Biden described the ban as “a betrayal of all the foundations of our American history, of freedom, religious freedom... It goes against everything we stand for. And now, after a three-year assault on our American values, Donald Trump says he wants to expand that ban, religious ban, to more countries.”
The former vice president emphasized that “this anti-Muslim bias is not only morally wrong, it’s like putting up a great big recruiting banner for terrorists.”
As Biden was speaking with voters following the event, a small group of environmental protesters held up signs, but their chants were drowned out by the loud music soundtrack playing at the campaign event.
Minutes later, as Biden was leaving the event, some of the protestors chanted “2050 is too late.” The candidate briefly spoke with them before departing. Biden, like some of his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, calls for reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 to combat climate change.
The demonstrators told Fox News that they weren’t protesting on behalf of any particular organization, but some said they belonged to the progressive organizing group Rights and Democracy.
Biden was introduced by New Hampshire House Speaker Steve Shurtleff, a Vietnam War veteran who recently endorsed Biden. Shurtleff told Fox News that “I think the race is going to be close.”
And he predicted that the primary is going to come down to “what the independent and undeclared voters do, what direction. I think they’re going to voter center, center-left.”
Independent voters make up roughly 40 percent of the state’s electorate and can vote in either the Democratic or Republican primaries.
One of two new polls released this week in New Hampshire indicated Biden in a tie with Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who lives in neighboring Vermont. But the other survey indicated Sanders with a double-digit lead over the rest of the Democratic primary field.
Before leaving, Biden also briefly chatted with 93-year old Claire Snipes. The longtime Claremont resident, who said she was a big Biden supporter, recalled that she met John F. Kennedy when he was running for president in 1960.
She said she told Biden “he had to get to be president because I wanted to have a sixth president that I’d seen.”
Fox News' Lucas Tomlinson contributed to this report.