President Trump on Tuesday called the family of slain Army Sgt. La David Johnson, setting off an extraordinary back-and-forth over assertions that the president’s comments were disrespectful.
Johnson, 25, was one of four soldiers killed in an ambush Oct. 4 in Niger. The incident is under investigation, the Department of Defense said.
Almost two weeks passed between Johnson's death and the president's phone call, a gap Trump explained at a Monday press conference as him wanting "a little time to pass."
On Tuesday, Johnson's family gathered to receive his remains. Trump's phone call came as they were on their way to the airport.
Johnson's casket was then emotionally received by his wife, who is pregnant with their third child.
On Wednesday morning, Trump responded to the congresswoman's comments by accusing her of making the whole thing up.
But later Wednesday, the soldier's mother confirmed Wilson's retelling of the phone call. "President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband," Jones-Johnson told the Washington Post on Wednesday via Facebook Messenger.
Wilson continued to comment on Twitter, calling Johnson a hero and saying Trump "does not possess the character, empathy or grace to be president of the United States."
A White House source, speaking anonymously to the Sentinel, said the president only meant to comfort the widow in his call and perhaps was "misunderstood."
"This president cares deeply. Maybe he said something that was misunderstood, but he certainly cares about fallen servicemen and -women," said the source.
Trump then appeared before reporters at the White House, where he again denied making the comments.
"I did not say what that congresswoman said, didn't say it at all," Trump said.
"I would like her to make the statement again because I did not say what she said.
"I had a very nice conversation with the woman — with the wife, who sounded like a lovely woman. Did not say what the congresswoman said, and most people aren't too surprised to hear that," Trump said.