White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders fired back at the media on Wednesday, arguing that they have taken President Donald Trump’s comments on calling families of fallen troops “far out of context.”
“The comments were certainly, I think, taken very far out of context by the media,” she said during the daily press briefing.
“The point the president was making is that there’s a different process [for each president]. Sometimes they call. Sometimes they write letters. Sometimes they engage directly,” she said.
The issue arose after a Monday press briefing, where a reporter asked Trump why he hadn’t yet said anything about four soldiers killed in Niger on October 4 during an ambush.
Trump said he had already written letters to the family and was planning to call them as well. He added that not every president in the past — like former President Barack Obama — had also called families, but that he “traditionally” did.
Trump’s comments set off fury from Obama’s former aides, who said the former president had met with and called families of the fallen.
The next day, Trump was asked about the issue during a Fox News radio interview, where he suggested that Obama did not call General John Kelly after his son was killed in Afghanistan in 2010. A White House official later confirmed to Breitbart News that Kelly was not called.
Later on Tuesday, Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) said she had overheard Trump’s call to Myesha Johnson, the widow of Army Sgt. La David Johnson, and claimed that Trump was disrespectful and had upset Johnson.
Trump then tweeted Wednesday morning that Wilson had “fabricated” what he said to Johnson and that he had proof.
Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2017
Sanders told reporters there were several people from the administration that were on the call to Johnson, including Kelly, and they believed the president was “completely respectful.”
“The president’s call, as accounted by multiple people in the room — believe that the president was completely respectful, very sympathetic, and expressed the condolences of himself and the rest of the country, and thanked the family for their service, commended them for having an American hero in their family. And I don’t know how you could take that any other way,” she said.
“And I think it, frankly, is a disgrace of the media to try to portray an act of kindness like that and that gesture and try to make it into something that it isn’t,” she said.
“I think it is appalling what the congresswoman has done, and the way she’s politicized this issue, and the way that she is trying to make this about something that it isn’t,” she added.
“General Kelly was present for the call and thought it was completely appropriate. He thought the call was respectful. And he thought that the president did the best job he could under those circumstances to offer condolences on behalf of the country.”
Sanders did not go into specifics of the call but addressed accusations that Trump did not say Sgt. La David Johnson’s name.
“Just because the president said ‘your guy,’ I don’t think that means he doesn’t know his name,” she said.
Asked how Kelly felt about the issue, Sanders said he was “disgusted” over how the issue has been politicized.
“I think General Kelly is disgusted by the way that this has been politicized and that the focus has become on the process and not the fact that American lives were lost. I think he’s disgusted and frustrated by that,” she said.
“If he has any anger, it’s towards that,” she added.