Pete Buttigieg Says 'Privileged' Donald Trump Faked a Disability in Order to Avoid Serving in Vietnam

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Democratic presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg (right) answers questions from reporter Robert Costa at a Washington Post Live discussion, in Washington, D.C., on May 23. Win McNamee / Getty Images

Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg on Thursday expressed a "dim view" of President Donald Trump's reported efforts to evade the Vietnam draft by enlisting a doctor to petition for a medical exemption.

"I have a pretty dim view of his decision to use his privileged status to fake a disability in order to avoid serving in Vietnam," Buttigieg said in response to a question from reporter Robert Costa at a Washington Post live event.

Donald Trump reportedly obtained a diagnosis for bone spurs as he was set to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania in 1968, having already been certified as fit for service only two years prior, according to a New York Times examination of Trump's Selective Service records from that era. Trump was an athlete during his high school and college years.

The Times has also reported that a podiatrist who may have been involved in the bone spurs diagnosis once rented office space from Trump's father, Fred Trump. A daughter of the podiatrist, who passed away in 2007, said that she knew her father's alleged involvement "was a favor" to the elder Trump.

When Costa pressed Buttigieg on whether he believes Trump faked a disability in order to avoid service, Buttigieg responded skeptically: "Do you believe he has a disability?"

"I think that's exactly what he did," he added. "This is somebody who, I think it's fairly obvious to most of us, took advantage of the fact that he was a child of a multimillionaire in order to pretend to be disabled so that somebody could go to war in his place."

A 1981 Veterans Administration study found that wealthy citizens were severely underrepresented in the draft. Wealthy individuals were half as likely to be inducted into the military as were the bottom half of the class system. Other studies have since confirmed that opportunities to evade the draft altogether are more available for high-income earners.

Bone spurs are often treated through physical therapy, pain medication and surgery, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Trump provided the Times, though, with a different explanation for why the spurs were no longer bothering him.

"Over a period of time, it healed up," he said.

Trump has vehemently denied dodging the draft through an inaccurate diagnosis.

Over 58,000 U.S. troops died in the Vietnam conflict, one of the deadliest in American history. The anti-war movement became one of the most polarizing domestic issues of the '60s and '70s. Around 210,000 men were formally charged with evading the draft, though another 15 million or so avoided service through, among other methods, various deferments or exemptions.