Washington (AFP) – US President Donald Trump told the widow of a soldier killed during an ambush in Niger “he knew what he was signing up for,” according to a lawmaker who accused him of insensitivity.
Frederica Wilson, a Democratic congresswoman from Florida, said she listened in to part of a group phone call between the president and the grieving family of Sergeant La David Johnson.
“I didn’t hear the whole phone call, but I did hear him say, ‘I’m sure he knew what he was signing up for, but it still hurts,’” she told CNN.
Trump denied making the comments, tweeting Wednesday: “Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!”
Johnson was among four US soldiers killed earlier this month in Niger, where Islamic State fighters have established a presence.
The Miami native’s body was returned home Tuesday afternoon, according to the Miami Herald. He is survived by his wife Myeshia Johnson, who is pregnant with the couple’s third child.
After the phone call, Myeshia “was crying, she broke down. And she said ‘he didn’t even know his name,’” added Wilson, referring to Trump.
Trump had faced criticism for not contacting the families of the soldiers killed in Niger right away.
At a press briefing on Monday, he said he had written them letters and would call soon, while accusing his predecessor Barack Obama of neglecting to call as many grieving families as himself.
He also suggested on a call to Fox News radio Tuesday that Obama had not made a condolence call to retired Marine general John Kelly, Trump’s White House chief of staff, after his son was killed in action in Afghanistan.
The statements sparked outrage from former Obama aides, who said Trump’s claims were baseless.