President Donald Trump denied on Wednesday (via Twitter) that he once told the widow of fallen soldier Sgt. La David Johnson, who was killed in an ambush in Niger, that Johnson “knew what he signed up for, but I guess it still hurts,” CNN reports, adding that he believed Florida Representative Frederica Wilson made the comments up.
Trump said Wilson “totally fabricated” his remarks to Johnson’s widow, Myeshia Johnson, adding that he had proof but, according to CNN, did not provide that proof.
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) October 18, 2017
According to ABC News, Sgt. Johnson was on a joint patrol on October 4 with U.S. and Nigerian forces when he, along with three other soldiers, was killed in an ambush by militants supposedly connected to ISIS. Wilson said that she was in the car with Johnson Tuesday afternoon on the way to Miami International Airport to receive the body of the fallen Sgt. when Trump called.
In an interview with “CNN Tonight” on Tuesday evening, Wilson claimed, “Basically, [the president] said, 'Well, I guess he knew what he signed up for, but I guess it still hurt.'"
When asked by CNN affiliate WPLG if Wilson was sure that that was what she had heard the president say, Wilson responded, “Yeah, he said that. You know ... that is something that you can say in a conversation, but you shouldn't say that to a grieving widow. Everyone knows when you go to war you could possibly not come back alive, but you don't remind a grieving widow of that. That is so insensitive. So insensitive.”
Wilson repeated that the comments were not in-line with what the POTUS should be saying.
“That is what stood out in everyone's heart,” Wilson added. “You don't say that. He is the President of the United States. This is a soldier who gave his life for his country. He is a hero in our minds, in our community's minds. That is an insult to the entire Miami Gardens community, to the entire District 24, to Miami-Dade County and to this nation. And I hope he didn't say that to the other three families.”
Wilson told CNN's Alisyn Camerota on “New Day,” that she has “no reason to lie [about] the President of the United States with a dead soldier in my community. I have no time, I have no motive.”
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) October 18, 2017
According to ABC News, Wilson said that she was “livid” when she heard Trump’s comments over speakerphone. “I asked them to give me the phone because I wanted to speak with him," Wilson said. "And I was going to curse him out. That was my reaction at that time. I was livid. But they would not give me the phone.” Overall, Wilson thought that Trump’s comments were “extremely insensitive” and “a disgrace.”
The controversy came only a day after Trump claimed that past presidents did not reach out to the families of fallen soldiers.
“If you look at President [Barack] Obama and other presidents, most of them didn't make calls. A lot of them didn't make calls. I like to call when it's appropriate, when I think I am able to do it,” Trump said on Monday. “They have made the ultimate sacrifice. So generally I would say that I like to call. I'm going to be calling them. I want a little time to pass. I'm going to be calling them.”
In an interview with Fox News Radio on Tuesday, Trump said, “As far as other presidents, I don't know, you could ask Gen. Kelly, did he get a call from Obama? I don't know what Obama's policy was." Kelly’s son was killed while serving in Afghanistan in 2010.
The White House declined to comment on the remarks now associated with Trump. “The president's conversations with the families of American heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice are private,” a White House official told ABC News.