Why Donald Trump's Response To Colin Powell's Death Has Twitter Fuming

Yes, we get it: it's difficult to know what to say when someone dies. It is tough when you were close to the person and want to find just the right words to express your sorrow at their passing and comfort the family members they may have left behind. It can be even tougher, though, if the recently deceased is someone you really didn't get on with all that well. De mortuis nil nisi bonum dicendum est, after all. In case we lost you at the first whiff of Latin, Abyssus Abyssum Invocat explains that this Latin phrase — which translates roughly to "speak no ill of the dead" — is meant to remind us that it is considered socially inappropriate to take one last parting shot at the dearly departed.

Maggie Haberman of The New York Times put it in a slightly different way in a recent tweet, opining that if you are a public figure asked for a comment on the death of another public figure, one whose public (or private) views were not aligned with your own, well, you have a choice. You can either be gracious about someone who can no longer be considered a rival or critic, or else you can at least have the common decency to keep your mouth shut. Former President Donald Trump, however, chose to take yet a third path in a statement he released when the news broke about the death of former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Trump's postmortem Powell diss

While the once and possibly future POTUS didn't exactly break into a rousing chorus of "Ding dong, the witch is dead" when he heard of Colin Powell's death, his statement wasn't too far off that mark. As per Maggie Haberman's tweet, he said it was "Wonderful to see Colin Powell, who made big mistakes on Iraq and famously, so-called weapons of mass destruction, be treated in death so beautifully by the Fake News Media," and went on to add "Hope that happens to me someday." Trump took a few more shots at the man he called "a classic RINO," saying that Powell was "the first to attack other Republicans."

Powell did, in fact, refer to Donald Trump as both a "national disgrace" and an "international pariah" (via NBC News), but such opinions were hardly uncommon even among his fellow party members. What's more, these words were not aired in a public forum, but used in private emails that were only brought to light when his account was hacked. Trump, never the forgiving type, concluded his condolences with a less-than-gracious, "He made plenty of mistakes, but anyway, may he rest in peace!"

Twitter wasn't applauding Trump's crummy condolences

Twitter was, for the most part, equal parts amused, bemused, and irate about Trump's unbelievably inappropriate words. One Twitter user called the message "disgusting," another tweeted it was "repulsive," and still others went with "deplorable" (per Twitter). There were also those who wondered if those words could have been meant as a parody, but as one Twitter user pointed out, Trump's message was "Almost like it's a fake, but that's how bad he is." 

Maggie Haberman herself wrote in a follow-up tweet that Trump's words were "larded in envy about coverage." Another Twitter user, however, pointed out that Habermann was herself providing the ex-POTUS with just that, saying, "Trump has so many willing reporters to tweet his 'statements' that he really doesn't need a twitter account. "

One person on Twitter wondered about a particular line, saying "he hopes that happens to him one day? You can read that so many ways," but another found some value in the statement's conclusion. As this Twitter user noted, the "But anyway, may he rest in peace!" part would make a good "last line on my headstone."

Other leaders have responded far more graciously to Powell's death

While Donald Trump may not have felt inclined to shower Colin Powell with posthumous praise, he seems to have been one of the few to have a negative opinion of the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. George W. Bush, the president who appointed Powell to his cabinet, announced in a statement that he was "deeply saddened" by the death and called Powell "a great public servant, starting with his time as a soldier during Vietnam" (via Newsweek).

Joe Biden, whose candidacy benefited from an endorsement by Powell, reminisced in a statement about his fallen friend who "embodied the highest ideals of both warrior and diplomat" (via The Washington Post). Barack Obama tweeted a tribute, in which he called Powell "an example of what America — and Americans — can and should be," while Madeline Albright, Powell's predecessor as Secretary of State, tweeted, "My heart is sad for I have lost a friend. "

Even Mike Pence, Trump's former #1 supporter, lauded the late general on Twitter as "a true American Patriot who served our Nation with distinction in uniform, as a four-star general, National Security Advisor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and as 65th Secretary of State."