Gen. Kelly on Rep. Wilson's Politicizing Gold Star Families

The White House chief of staff sets the record straight on Trump's phone call to a fallen soldier's widow.

Thomas Gallatin · Oct. 20, 2017

This is how to handle a situation professionally and respectfully. Earlier this week, Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) attacked Donald Trump for being disrespectful and offensive in a phone call to the widow of a fallen soldier. Trump responded by saying that Wilson was lying. Naturally, it was the top story all week.

On Thursday, White House Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly held a press conference in order to set the record straight, painstakingly describing the process that happens whenever any member of America’s Armed Forces is killed. Here are a few of his statements:

Typically, the only phone calls a family receives are the most important phone calls they could imagine, and that is from their buddies. In my case, hours after my son was killed, his friends were calling us from Afghanistan, telling us what a great guy he was. Those are the only phone calls that really mattered. …

And [President Trump] said to me, “What do I say?” I said to him, “Sir, there’s nothing you can do to lighten the burden on these families.” …

Let me tell you what my best friend, Joe Dunford, told me — because he was my casualty officer. He said, “Kel, [your son Richard, killed in Afghanistan in 2010] was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew what he was getting into by joining that 1%. He knew what the possibilities were because we’re at war. And when he died” — in the four cases we’re talking about, Niger, and my son’s case in Afghanistan — “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. I was stunned … and broken-hearted at what I saw a member of Congress doing. A member of Congress who listened in on a phone call from the president of the United States to a young wife, and in his way tried to express that opinion — that [Sgt. La David Johnson was] a brave man, a fallen hero, he knew what he was getting himself into because he enlisted. There’s no reason to enlist; he enlisted. And he was where he wanted to be, exactly where he wanted to be, with exactly the people he wanted to be with when his life was taken.

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 — is sacred. That’s gone. Religion, that seems to be gone as well.

Gold Star families, I think that left in the convention over the summer. But I just thought the selfless devotion that brings a man or woman to die on the battlefield — I just thought that that might be sacred.

Those are powerful words from a man who knows what it is to both serve and to grieve the loss of his own son.

When Rep. Wilson was asked to respond, she said, “Let me tell you what my mother told me when I was little. She said, ‘The dog can bark at the moon all night long, but it doesn’t become an issue until the moon barks back.’”

What? She also had the gall to boast about her own importance in the matter: “I’ll have to tell my kids that I’m a rock star now.”

Jonah Goldberg opined, “It strains all credulity to think that Donald Trump wasn’t trying to be sympathetic and empathetic in that phone call. … The idea that he wasn’t somehow going into this in good faith just strikes me as bizarre and false on its face.” Well, that’s the difference between Democrat charlatans like Wilson and men who’ve served with honor and dignity like Kelly.

Below is the video of Kelly’s 18-minute press conference in its entirety. It’s well worth watching.

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