The group VoteVets alone raised $3.3 million in the last quarter, $1.5 million of it in September after it released an online ad critical of Mr. Trump that featured the parents of troops slain in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The president’s remarks on Thursday drew rebukes from liberal veterans and their political groups, as well as from elected Democrats, including the usually circumspect Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Whether he intended it or not, the president has blamed an event with families who lost their loved ones in battle for giving him Covid,” he said in a statement.
Mr. Reed added: “Instead of casting aspersions on the families of the fallen for infecting him, President Trump should be transparent about his own actions, who he met with and when, and release detailed medical information including a timeline and do some real contact tracing to help stop the spread. Instead, President Trump is continuing his pattern of irresponsible behavior.”
Alyssa Farah, a White House spokeswoman, said Mr. Trump had not been implicating the families. “His point was merely that in the time frame that he was potentially exposed,” she said, “there were a number of different venues he’d been at and individuals that he had interacted with that it could have come from.”
Many senior Pentagon leaders attended the event for military families late last month, and several guests there have since tested positive for the coronavirus, including Adm. Charles Ray, the vice commandant of the Coast Guard. The first lady, Melania Trump, was there and has also tested positive. Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and several other senior uniformed leaders at the Pentagon are quarantining after interacting with Admiral Ray.
Scrutiny has also surrounded a White House gathering on Sept. 26, a day before the military event, which was held to honor Mr. Trump’s nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Numerous Trump aides and several Republican senators who were there have since tested positive, and the White House has done little to track the contacts of attendees.
In an email on Thursday, Timothy Davis, the president of the Greatest Generations Foundation, a veterans organization involved in organizing the Gold Star event on Sept. 27, said that all attendees had tested negative beforehand and that all were “doing well and exhibit no symptoms of Covid-19.” Mr. Davis said the group had been told late on Oct. 1 that Mr. Trump had tested positive, and the families in attendance were notified the next morning.