A Florida congresswoman described President Donald Trump’s phone call to the widow of a soldier killed during an ambush in Niger as “insensitive” after the president reportedly said the man “must’ve known what he signed up for.”
Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) was in a car with Myeshia Johnson, the pregnant widow of Army Sgt. La David Johnson, when Trump called her Tuesday and spoke for about five minutes, according to South Florida’s NBC affiliate. Wilson said she heard the conversation on speakerphone.
“Sarcastically he said: ‘But you know he must have known what he signed up for,’” Wilson recounted to NBC6. “How could you say that to a grieving widow? I couldn’t believe... and he said it more than once. I said this man has no feelings for anyone. This is a young woman with child who is grieved to her soul.”
Wilson, speaking to CNN, said her community was angry about the comments and described Johnson as a local hero.
“We don’t have many heroes in our young men in Miami-Dade County, but he was a hero for us,” the congresswoman told host Don Lemon. When asked what her immediate reaction was, she said: “I asked them to give me the phone, because I wanted to speak with him. And I was going to curse him out. That was my reaction... I was livid.”
The White House declined to comment on the account in statements given to The Washington Post and an ABC affiliate.
“The president’s conversations with the families of American heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice are private,” an unnamed official said in the statement.
Four Green Berets were killed in an ambush in Niger earlier this month, and two others were wounded. Following a question about why he hadn’t spoken about their deaths publicly or called troops’ families, Trump said Monday that he had written personal letters and that he planned to call later. He then used the opportunity to falsely assert that his predecessors “didn’t make calls” themselves.
Former President Barack Obama frequently called the families of soldiers killed in action and visited those wounded during his administration. President George W. Bush visited troops at the Walter Reed medical center 16 times before he left office.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed on Twitter late Tuesday that Trump had called all four families of those killed, saying he offered “condolences on behalf of the country.”
Trump returned to the subject Tuesday, using the death of Chief of Staff John Kelly’s son in 2010 to illustrate Obama’s record on calling bereaved families, saying his predecessor did not call in that instance. Obama invited Kelly and his wife, Karen, to a breakfast in 2011 for Gold Star families who have lost children in combat. They were seated at a table with first lady Michelle Obama.
Wilson on Tuesday described Trump’s call as “insensitive” in an interview to a local ABC affiliate. She was with Myeshia Johnson and her two children, ages 2 and 6, as she watched the casket carrying her husband arrive at Miami International Airport.
“He should have not have said that,” Wilson told ABC 10, before repeating, “He shouldn’t have said it.”