WH Says ‘Highly Inappropriate’ For Reporter To Question ‘Marine General’

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

The White House on Friday told a journalist who asked about errors chief of staff John Kelly made Thursday that it would be “highly inappropriate” to “get into a debate with a four-star Marine general.”

The militaristic language, used to refer to the civilian position in the White House occupied by the retired Marine general, came when the reporter pointed out that Kelly had inaccurately accused a congresswoman of claiming credit for securing funding for an FBI building in Miramar, Florida in 2015.

As video published Friday by the Sun Sentinel showed, the congresswoman, Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL), never claimed to have secured funding for the building. She did mention during her speech that she had led a congressional effort to name the building after two fallen FBI officials.

Sanders repeated a misleading statement regarding Kelly’s remarks in the press briefing Friday.

“As we say in the South, all hat, no cattle,” she added, a statement that could allude to the fact that Rep. Wilson is known to wear colorful hats.

The reporter pointed out that Kelly’s statement Thursday was misleading: Wilson didn’t discuss the building’s funding in her speech in 2015.

“She also had quite a few comments that day that weren’t part of that speech and weren’t part of that video that were also witnessed by many people that were there,” Sanders said, referring to “what Gen. Kelly referenced yesterday.”

The reporter pressed: Would Kelly respond to reporting on his inaccurate statement?

“I think he’s addressed that pretty thoroughly yesterday,” Sanders said.

“He was wrong yesterday in talking about getting the money,” the reporter countered.

“If you want to go after Gen. Kelly, that’s up to you,” Sanders said. “But I think that, if you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that that’s something highly inappropriate.”

Responding to TPM’s questions about the statement Friday, Sanders said that “Of course everyone can be questioned.”

She added, referring to the journalist who asked about Kelly’s factually incorrect attack on a Democratic congresswoman: “[A]fter witnessing General Kelly’s heartfelt and somber account we should all be able to agree that impugning his credibility on how best to honor fallen heroes is not appropriate.”

The press secretary added later in the press conference, responding separately to a question about a speech made by former President George W. Bush on Thursday: “I think if anybody is pushing a lot of fabricated things right now, I think most of that would be coming from the news media.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.
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