Trump battles Democrat lawmaker over content of condolence call to soldier’s widow
Donald Trump has become embroiled in a war of words with a Florida congresswoman over an “insensitive” call the president made to the widow of David Johnson, a soldier who died at the hands of militants in Niger earlier this month.
Frederica Wilson, a Democrat Representative for Florida’s 24th district, was with Johnson’s family en route to the airport to receive his body when Trump made the contentious condolence call. According to Wilson, who heard the message on the speakerphone, the US President told Johnson’s partner, who is pregnant with his third child, that her husband “knew what he signed up for.”
Wilson said she was “livid” at Trump’s “insensitive” remarks, and told CNN that she tried to grab the phone to “curse him out” but was prevented from doing so by a military official.
Trump has issued two denials of the story, accusing Wilson of making up the story.
“Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!” the president tweeted Wednesday.
Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 18 October 2017
Wilson, 74, who has been in Congress since 2011, has refused to back down.
“Well, I don't know what kind of proof he could be talking about. I'm not the only person that was in the car. And I have proof too," she told CNN later Wednesday. "This man is a sick man. He's cold-hearted and he feels no pity or sympathy for anyone."
I stand my account of the call with @realDonaldTrump and was not the only one who heard and was dismayed by his insensitive remarks.— Rep Frederica Wilson (@RepWilson) 18 October 2017
In her original statement to CNN that ignited the controversy, Wilson said that she was paraphrasing the president, and she told ABC that she “didn't hear the entire conversation” but insisted that his offhand manner, in which “he didn’t even remember” the fallen sergeant’s name “stood out in everyone's heart.”
Her story appears to be backed by Cowanda Jones-Johnson, the mother of David Johnson.
He was one of about 800 troops engaged in a long-term anti-terrorist assistance mission in the African country. He was killed together with three other US servicemen in an ambush on October 4.
“President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband,” Jones-Johnson told the Washington Post.
Rep. Frederica Wilson responds to Trump's claim she "fabricated" what he said to soldier's widow: He "is a sick man" https://t.co/v32PLMr0aW— CNN (@CNN) 18 October 2017
Later Wednesday, Trump was again forced to defend himself, when questioned by reporters during a press briefing in Washington.
“I didn't say what that congresswoman said – didn't say it all. She knows it. I had a very nice conversation with the woman, with the wife who was — sounded like a lovely woman. Did not say what the congresswoman said, and most people aren’t too surprised to hear that,” said Trump.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told the media on Wednesday night that there was no recording of the call, but said that multiple individuals were present on Trump's side of the line, including Chief of Staff John Kelly.
The controversy is secondary fall out from Trump’s own statement earlier this week, when he claimed that he personally called every fallen soldier’s family, and wrote them letters, in contrast with Barack Obama and other previous occupants of the White House.
Representatives of Trump’s predecessors have since said that they also wrote to and called the families of thousands servicemen killed in action.