At least 17 female members of the Congressional Black Caucus are demanding that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly apologize for making inaccurate statements about Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) after she stood up for the family of a fallen soldier who felt “disrespected” by President Trump.
“General Kelly’s comments are reprehensible. Congresswoman Wilson’s integrity and credibility should not be challenged or undermined by such blatant lies. We, the women of the Congressional Black Caucus, proudly stand with Congresswoman Wilson and demand that General Kelly apologize to her without delay and take responsibility for his reckless and false statements,” the members wrote in a statement released Sunday.
The demand comes after Wilson told reporters about what Trump said to a grieving widow of one of the soldiers who was killed in Niger earlier this month. According to Wilson — and now even the widow, who has since spoken out — Trump told Myeshia Johnson on Tuesday that her husband “knew what he was signing up for.”
Trump pushed back on Wilson’s claims, tweeting that the congresswoman “fabricated” the story, which lead to several public back-and-forth insults between Trump and Wilson last week.
Kelly, who himself became a Gold Star family member after his son was killed in Afghanistan in 2010, spoke to reporters Thursday and defended the President. Kelly said he counseled Trump on how to address families of the fallen.
He also lashed out against Wilson for “listening in” on Trump’s call with Johnson and claimed she bragged about securing funding for a new FBI building in Florida — named in honor of two fall agents — at its dedication in 2015. A video of Wilson’s dedication speech released by the South Florida Sun Sentinel confirms that Wilson did not say what Kelly claimed she did.
“He needs to apologize. First of all, he was in error, he did not tell the truth. He knows now that he did not tell the truth, even if he thought he had told it, so he owes her an apology,” Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC) said on CNN Monday. “Talking about a member of Congress who has done great work, she serves her constituents. She has served at the local level, at the state level and now she’s in Congress, and she’s doing a tremendous job. For him to try to demean her character and her integrity in this way is absolutely unacceptable.”
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) took her frustrations with Kelly one step further, saying the entire White House and administration should issue an apology for Trump’s “wacky insults.”
“General Kelly is a Gold Star member and he has the right to speak about his loss and he did eloquently and I’m sure he brought many to tears, but then he had to defend his boss,” she said on CNN. “His boss is President Trump, who has continued to throw wacky insults, and as an African American woman, I’m not going to stand for it, period.”
Jackson Lee said the continued insults from Trump and Kelly “puts everyone in the barrel,” referencing Kelly’s remarks when he called Wilson an “empty barrel.”
“Congresswoman Wilson deserves an apology, the President owes her an apology. The military owes the United States Congress, the House of Representatives, a full classified briefing on the actions of the Africa command in that region. We can’t go any longer without knowing what’s going on,” she said.
The White House did not immediately respond to TPM’s requests for comment on whether Kelly intends to apologize. At a press briefing last week, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that it would be “highly inappropriate” to “get into a debate with a four-star Marine general” after reporters asked about the video that contradicts Kelly’s comments.