The pregnant widow of an American soldier killed in an ambush in Niger said Monday that Donald Trump had struggled to remember his name during a condolence call, in an account the president immediately disputed.
Trump’s call to Myeshia Johnson, whose husband Sergeant La David Johnson was one of four US soldiers killed in the October 4 jihadist attack, has generated a storm of controversy that is now heading into its second week.
“Yes, the president said that he knew what he signed up for but it hurts anyways,” Johnson said on ABC’s Good Morning America TV program, in her first public comments on the death of her 25-year-old husband.
“And I was—it made me cry because I was very angry at the tone of his voice and how he said it.”
Myeshia Johnson, who is carrying the couple’s third child, said she “heard him stumbling on trying to remember my husband’s name and that hurt me the most.”
“The only way he remembered my husband’s name because he told me he had my husband’s report in front of him and that’s when he actually said La David.”
The US president fired right back on Twitter, insisting: “I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!”
Details of Trump’s call were made public last week by a Democratic congresswoman who claimed the president had offended Johnson’s widow, drawing accusations from the White House of politicizing the issue.
The escalating row prompted Trump’s chief of staff John Kelly, a former general whose son died in Afghanistan, to deliver an emotive defense of the president—while lashing out at the Florida congresswoman, Frederica Wilson.
Myeshia Johnson told ABC Wilson’s account of the call was “100 percent correct,” saying she was a lifelong family friend and had listened in over a speakerphone.
“Whatever Miss Wilson said was not fabricated,” Johnson said. “Why would we fabricate something like that?”
Asked if she had any words for the president, she replied: “No. I don’t have nothing to say to him.”
Trump himself kicked off the furor early last week by falsely claiming that Barack Obama and other former US leaders did not call the families of fallen soldiers.
As the controversy escalated, the president went on to claim that he had called “virtually” all fallen servicemembers’ families since taking office.
That has reportedly left his administration scrambling, with four families of servicemembers receiving rush-delivered letters from the White House in recent days, according to the Atlantic.