- Screenshot via WPLG
- President Donald Trump was criticized on Tuesday night for comments he reportedly made during a phone call with the widow of the US soldier Sgt. La David Johnson. Johnson was one of four US Army Special Forces troops killed in action while on a mission in the African country of Niger earlier this month. A Florida congresswoman said Trump told the widow that Johnson “knew what he signed up for, but when it happens, it hurts anyway.” Earlier Tuesday, Trump doubled down on a false claim that President Barack Obama did not call the families of fallen soldiers.
Comments President Donald Trump reportedly made during a phone call with the widow of a US soldier raised some eyebrows on Tuesday night.
Rep. Frederica Wilson told the Miami affiliate WPLG that while speaking with Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, one of the four US Army Special Forces troops killed in action during a mission in the African country of Niger earlier this month, Trump said, “He knew what he signed up for, but when it happens, it hurts anyway.”
“Yeah, he said that,” Wilson told the news station. “So insensitive. He should not have said that – he shouldn’t have said it.”
The congresswoman later told CNN’s Don Lemon she was riding in a car Myeshia Johnson on their way to receive the soldier’s body when Trump called the widow.
“I heard what he said because the phone was on speaker,” Wilson said.
“This is a young, young woman, who has two children, who is six months pregnant with a third child. She has just lost her husband. She was just told that he cannot have an open-casket funeral, which gives her all kinds of nightmares – how his body must look, how his face must look – and this is what the president of the United States says to her?”
The former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, who also served as a US Army captain, called the remark “nauseating” in an interview with CNN, but added, “I’ve heard people say this before – I think we probably all have.
“We’ve all heard people find out about soldiers dying and say something like this, and so I think it’s important to talk about why people say that,” Kander continued. “People say that because they’re seeking emotional distance from the situation. People say that because they want to avoid feeling that pain.
“And when you’re the president of the United States, when you’re the commander in chief, you need to be able to lean into that situation.”
Other commentators noted that the context around what Trump said on the phone call with Johnson’s widow was not immediately clear.
Earlier Tuesday, Trump doubled down on a false claim that President Barack Obama did not call the families of fallen American service members. Several former Obama administration officials disputed Trump’s assertion.
The president over the past 24 hours has sought to tout his empathy for Gold Star families, but observers have criticized him for seeming to use the tradition of consoling the families as a means to congratulate himself.
Also Tuesday, Trump drew his chief of staff, John Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, into the fray during an interview with Fox News Radio host Brian Kilmeade. Kelly’s son Robert was killed in Afghanistan in 2010.
“You can ask General Kelly,” Trump said. “Did he get a call from Obama?”