A condolence call from President Trump has turned the sorrow of the recent Niger Ambush into a political dispute. The purpose of this call was to comfort Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sergeant La David Johnson, who died in Niger defending our country. Although the intent of Trump’s phone call was good, many, including Mrs. Johnson herself, have criticized the President for his mishandling of this call.
Sergeant La David Johnson, a husband and father of two children with one on the way, was killed in Niger on October 4th, 2017 at age 25. Along with Sergeant Johnson, three other American soldiers also died in this ambush. Sergeant Johnson was found 48 hours after being killed while the other three soldiers were found much more quickly. On top of this aberration, Myeshia Johnson also was not allowed to see her husband’s remains, even when she requested to. Mrs. Johnson confirmed this in an interview with the statement, “They won’t show me a finger, a hand. … I don’t know what’s in that box…” The details surrounding these soldiers’ death are still unknown, which is the case for the entire ambush. The Pentagon and the FBI are currently investigating this tragedy. They are specifically trying to find out why US soldiers were in Niger, what the soldiers’ mission was, and why the four late soldiers got separated from their unit, which is what lead them to the ambush. In general, there is a lot of mystery surrounding this ambush that has yet to be unveiled.
In an interview with George Stephanopoulos from ABC News, Myeshia Johnson disclosed the details of her conversation with President Trump. Mrs. Johnson told George Stephanopoulos that Trump said during the condolence call that her husband, “He knew what he signed up for, but it hurts anyway”. Trump denied saying this, but chief of staff John F. Kelly confirmed that the President did make this statement. Along with this verification, John F. Kelly commented on Trump’s words again by trying to justify them. Kelly tried to explain in a news briefing on October 19th, 2017 that what Trump was trying to say was that Sergeant Johnson died doing what he loved and what he chose to do, fighting for the USA. Even if this was the President’s aim, Mrs. Johnson claims that his statement was rude, telling ABC News, “It made me cry because I was very angry at the tone in his voice and how he said it.” Mrs. Johnson also told George Stephanopoulos that President Trump could not remember La David Johnson’s name and repetitively referred to Sergeant Johnson as “your guy.” Myeshia Johnson stated, “The only way he remembered my husband’s name is because he told me he had my husband’s report in front of him and that’s when he actually said ‘La David.’ I heard him stumbling on trying to remember my husband’s name. And that’s what hurt me the most because if my husband is out here fighting for our country, and he risked his life for our country, why can’t you remember his name?” Trump also denied forgetting Sergeant Johnson’s name. In a Tweet Donald Trump wrote, “I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!” Whether the President did or did not say these remarks, both he and Mrs. Johnson are standing by their statements.
Democratic Representative Frederica S. Wilson brings another layer to this story with her public criticism of President Trump. Mrs. Wilson has been a longtime family friend of the Johnsons and was with Mrs. Johnson when she received the call from President Trump. Mrs. Wilson is very upset with the President for his words, especially his comment that Johnson “knew what he signed up for…”. Representative Wilson responded to this statement with, “So in other words, when you sign up when you go into the military, you are really signing up to die,” adding, “That is not what you say to a grieving widow”. Frederica Wilson has received plenty of backlash for her statements, some even making death threats towards her. Donald Trump tweeted about Mrs. Wilson, posting “Wacky Congresswoman Wilson is the gift that keeps on giving for the Republican Party, a disaster for Dems. You watch her in action & vote R!” Donald is not the only Trump family member to tweet about Representative Wilson, as his son Donald Trump Jr. tweeted shortly before his father, calling Mrs. Wilson a “disgusting person.” John F. Kelly went on to call Mrs. Wilson an “empty barrel” in a news briefing. Many agree that these politicians have gone too far with their remarks towards Mrs. Wilson, who just wanted justice for the Johnsons, while others side with President Trump, agreeing that Representative Wilson is out of line with her criticism.
Garrett Brooks, a sophomore who has a brother currently serving in the military, shared his opinion on this story, sympathizing with Myeshia Johnson. Garrett sided with Representative Wilson and Mrs. Johnson on this issue saying, “If I got that call and it was my family, I would rather [Trump] not call at all. If the arguably most important man in our country gave me this call it would be a slap in the face, like he doesn’t care at all”. Garrett continued with a statement about how politicians are treating Representative Wilson saying, “I don’t think [Wilson] was out of line for her comments. If Trump is suited to be president he should be able to take criticism. The widow is going through a lot and is probably grateful for someone to stand up for her and against Trump.” Garrett related this story to his life, noting that “This soldier was away from his family for a long time, just like my brother is. I haven’t seen him in 5 or 6 months. Every day I have to worry about him like the widow worried about her husband. If [Trump’s call] happened to me I would be horribly offended.”
by Kaylo Zubey
Image by NBC News
Yamiche Alcindor And Julie Hirschfeld Davis. “Soldier’s Widow Says Trump Struggled to Remember Sgt. La David Johnson’s Name.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 23 Oct. 2017, http://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/23/us/politics/soldiers-widow-says-trump-struggled-to-remember-sgt-la-david-johnsons-name.html?module=ArrowsNav&contentCollection=Politics&action=keypress®ion=FixedLeft&pgtype=article.
Alcindor, Yamiche. “Rep. Frederica Wilson on Trump: ‘That Is Not What You Say to a Grieving Widow.’” The New York Times, The New York Times, 18 Oct. 2017, http://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/18/us/politics/congresswoman-wilson-trump-niger-call-widow.html.
Shear, Michael D. “Kelly Delivers Fervent Defense of Trump Call to Soldier’s Widow.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 19 Oct. 2017, http://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/19/us/politics/john-kelly-son-trump.html?action=click&contentCollection=Politics&module=RelatedCoverage®ion=Marginalia&pgtype=article.