White House chief of staff John Kelly, a retired Marine general whose own son died in combat, told reporters Thursday that he was “stunned” to hear a Florida congresswoman politicize President Donald Trump’s call to comfort the family of a fallen soldier.
Kelly spoke at the White House press briefing following uproar over Democratic Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson’s attacks against the president. Wilson claimed Trump made an insensitive phone call to the widow of Army Sgt. La David T. Johnson.
“I was stunned when I came to work yesterday morning and brokenhearted at what I saw a member of Congress doing,” Kelly said. Rep. Wilson said Trump made Johnson’s widow, Myeshia, cry because he told her that her husband “must have known what he signed up for.”
The retired Marine said that presidents don’t typically call the next of kin of fallen troops and that he actually recommended that Trump not call. “If you elect to call a family like this it is about the most difficult thing you can imagine. There’s no perfect way to make that phone call,” the retired general said. “[Trump] called four people the other day and expressed his condolences in the best way he could and he said to me, ‘What do I say?'”
Kelly went on to say that he told the president what Kelly’s friend Marine Gen. Joe Dunford told him when Kelly’s own son died. “He said, ‘Kel, he was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew what he was getting into by joining… that 1 percent. He knew what the possibilities were, because we’re at war. And when he died… he was surrounded by the best men on this earth, his friends. That’s what the president tried to say to four families the other day.”
The White House chief of staff then lamented the lack of sacred things left in American society.
“It stuns me that a member of Congress would have listened in on that conversation. 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. Women were sacred, looked upon with great honor. That’s obviously not the case anymore as we see from recent cases. Life, the dignity of life, was sacred. Religion, that seems to be gone as well. Gold star families, I think that left in the convention over the summer. I just thought the selfless devotion that brings a man or a woman to die on the battlefield, I just thought that might be sacred.”
WATCH HOW GENERAL KELLY SLAMS CONGRESSWOMAN WILSON FOR HER POLITICIZATION OF THE DEATH OF A GREEN BERET