White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Wednesday that Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) telling the public that President Donald Trump allegedly told a grieving widow of a soldier killed in Niger that he “knew what he signed up for” was “appalling and disgusting.”
Wilson said she was with Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson, 25, when Trump called her. Part of the conversation was over speakerphone, Wilson said, and she heard him say “I guess he knew what he signed up for.”
Johnson and several other soldiers were killed earlier this month after being ambushed in the northwest African nation of Niger.
Besides Wilson, Johnson’s mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, told the New York Times that Trump did “state that comment.” Speaking with the Washington Post, Jones-Johnson said, “President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband.”
Trump quickly denied the congresswoman’s recollection of the conversation, saying it was “fabricated.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Sanders continued to defend the president, calling the story and its aftermath a “disgrace of the media.”
“I think it is appalling what the congresswoman has done and the way she has politicized this issue and the way she is trying to make this about something that it isn’t,” Sanders said. “This was a president who loves our country very much, who has the greatest level of respect for men and women in the uniform and wanted to call and offer condolences to the family. I think to try and create something from that, that the congresswoman is doing, is frankly appalling and disgusting.”
Sanders says Rep. Wilson's comments on Trump's condolence call are "appalling", despite Johnson's mother confirming Wilson's remarks. pic.twitter.com/q36vB2Pffz
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) October 18, 2017
When asked whether Trump was politicizing the issue when, during a radio interview, he invoked the death of Chief of Staff John Kelly’s son in Afghanistan in 2010, Sanders did not seem to think Trump–who asked an open question as to whether Kelly received a phone call from President Barack Obama–was doing the same thing as Wilson.
“He was responding to a question and stating a fact,” she said.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money for Johnson’s children and family. As of Wednesday afternoon, it had raised nearly $420,000. You can see the GoFundMe page here.