The White House is sticking by its line that President Donald Trump was respectful during his conversation with the widow of a fallen soldier, whose mother told The Washington Post that she felt “disrespected” by Trump’s remarks.
During the White House press briefing Friday, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said it was “unfortunate” if the family “misunderstood.”
“Certainly if the spirit of which those comments were intended was misunderstood, that’s very unfortunate. As the President has said, as General Kelly has said, who I think has a very deep understanding of what that individual would be going through, his comments were very sympathetic, very respectful,” Sanders said. “And that was the spirit in which the President intended them. If they were taken in any other way, that’s certainly an unfortunate thing.”
The comments follow a week-long firestorm that Trump started on Monday when he was asked about the deaths of four U.S. troops in Niger nearly two weeks ago. Trump claimed that “Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls, a lot of them didn’t make calls,” which was met with widespread condemnation from former Obama aides.
When Trump did make phone calls to the families of the four fallen soldiers, 14 days after their deaths, he reportedly told Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Army Sgt. La David Johnson, that the soldier “knew what he was getting into” when he enlisted, according to Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL), who was apparently in the car with Johnson when she received the call.
Trump and Wilson have been publicly criticizing each other ever since, with Trump calling Wilson a liar and Wilson standing by her characterization of the phone call.
Chief of Staff John Kelly got involved on Thursday, telling reporters he was “stunned” by the fact that Wilson had listened in on the phone call and calling Wilson an “empty barrel.”