MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell said he was “stunned” by White House chief of staff John Kelly’s remarks about Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida, suggesting that the former general was a product of a racist upbringing.
“They have more in common then John Kelly realizes,” O’Donnell said at the beginning of his show on MSNBC Thursday. “They were both born in segregated cities. They both went to segregated schools.”
Wilson went to school during forced, legal segregation in Florida, and Kelly grew up in Boston, where his school was segregated “by custom and practice” during the 1950s, O’Donnell said.
“John Kelly never sat next to Frederica Wilson in his elementary school,” he added.
Kelly called Wilson an “empty barrel” after her attacks on President Donald Trump for his words to the family of Sgt. La David Johnson, who was killed last week during military operations in Niger. By calling Wilson an “empty barrel,” Kelly attempted to dehumanize Wilson, O’Donnell said.
O’Donnell delivered an impassioned speech about the fight for desegregation of Boston schools. Like Kelly, O’Donnell also grew up in Boston, though a few years later, in “an identical neighborhood” to Kelly’s. “It was a neighborhood in which calling someone who looked like Frederica Wilson an ’empty barrel’ was the kindest thing someone said about her,” he said.
“I didn’t mind hearing John Kelly disagree with Congresswoman Wilson today,” O’Donnell said. “I understand the disagreement nature and some of it is deeply personal for him as a gold star father. But I was stunned, stunned when I watched him demonize her and very deliberately continue to dehumanize her and refuse to give her the dignity of a name and call her an empty barrel. he went out of his way to do it.”
During an emotional press conference Thursday, Kelly said he was stunned that a member of Congress would use a conversation of a gold-star mother to attack the president.
“It stuns me that a member of Congress would have listened in on that conversation,” Kelly said. “Absolutely stuns me. And I thought at least that was sacred. You know when I was a kid growing up a lot of things were sacred in our country.”
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