Women of the Congressional Black Caucus are taking John Kelly to task, demanding a swift and thorough apology for his hateful smear campaign against Rep. Frederica Wilson.
As the White House continues its ghastly campaign of disrespect toward Gold Star families, pressure is mounting for Donald Trump’s chief of staff John Kelly to apologize to Florida Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson for fabricating a nasty story about her last week.
"How General Kelly conducted himself against this woman in terms of trying to malign her character is reprehensible, and he needs to apologize and he needs to do it right away," California Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee told CNN Monday.
Lee was echoing a larger call from 17 female members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), who issued a demand for an apology Sunday. "We were appalled by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly’s statements where he called Congresswoman Wilson an ‘empty barrel,’" the women stated. "General Kelly’s comments are reprehensible."
Kelly had gone after Wilson, calling her selfish, after she reported that Trump had belatedly called Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Army Sgt. La David Johnson, one of the four U.S. troops killed during an ISIS-led ambush in Niger on Oct. 4. Wilson, a long-time friend of the Johnsons, was with the family when they received the call, during which Trump callously told Myeshia that her husband "knew what he signed up for."
And in a botched attempt to further smear Wilson and defend Trump, Kelly told a story about a 2015 speech Wilson gave at the dedication of a new Miramar, Florida, FBI Building. Kelly was at the event and claimed Wilson acted like a publicity hound, bragging about how she secured funding for the building with one phone call to President Barack Obama.
He referred to Wilson as an "empty barrel," claiming he was "stunned" by her behavior.
But Kelly’s story immediately imploded and was proven to be a total lie: the funding for the building was allocated before Wilson was even elected to Congress.
Video of the event unearthed by a Florida newspaper confirmed that Wilson made no effort at the ceremony to make the solemn event about herself. In fact, she spent a bulk of her speech extolling the memories of the fallen FBI agents for whom the building was being named.
Every part of Kelly’s vicious claim was false. Yet he still refuses to apologize for his reckless statements about a sitting member of Congress. When pressed about his falsehood, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders suggested it was "highly inappropriate" to question Kelly about his false story because he served as a four-star Marine general.
But Lee and the other women of the CBC are not intimidated by the White House's tactics and outrageous claims.
We want to make sure that General Kelly apologizes to Congresswoman Frederica Wilson. She is a women of integrity. She’s a woman of respect. She’s brilliant. She has a long history of service to children and their families. And she has mentored so many young African American boys, and males, and young men. And I just have to say what he said and how General Kelly conducted himself against this woman in terms of trying to malign her character is reprehensible. And he needs to apologize and he needs to do it right away.
Asked about the sad, remarkable spectacle of Trump now picking a public fight directly with an Army widow who buried her husband on Saturday, Lee expressed complete dismay at Trump’s tasteless, self-aggrandizing behavior.
"The president needs to stop it. This is a moment of grief," she said. "It’s unbelievable that the commander-in-chief could perform or act in this way. The president, unfortunately, has show who he is once again, and it’s very, very tragic."
And throughout this debacle, Kelly has proven to be no different than Trump. Military families, especially those grieving the loss of their loved one who died in service to the country, deserve far better than either of these men have shown them.