White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders faced a grilling from reporters on Wednesday regarding a phone call between President Donald Trump and the family of a fallen Army soldier.
During a press briefing, Sanders did not deny that Trump had told the family that Army Sgt. David Johnson “knew what he was signing up for.”
“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.”
“It wasn’t that he didn’t say those words, it was the context,” a reporter asked. “He felt that she put it in the wrong context, is that it?”
“I’m not going to get into the back and forth,” Sanders said. “I think the sentiment of the president was very clear. He took the time to make a call to express his condolences to thank the family for this individual’s service 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 to try to make it into something that it isn’t.”
The press secretary was also questioned about reports that Trump did not call Johnson by his name. “The widow said that the president did not know his name and kept saying, your guy, your guy?” reporter April Ryan asked.
“Just because the president said your guy, I don’t think that means that he doesn’t know his name,” Sanders retorted. “As the president stated, the hardest job he has is making calls like that. I think it is appalling what the congresswoman has done and the way that she’s politicized this issue and the way that she is trying to make this about something that it isn’t.
“This was a president who loves our country very much who has the greatest level of respect for men and women in the uniform and wanted to call and offer condolences to the family,” Sanders continued, “and I think to try to create something from that that the congresswoman is doing is frankly appalling and disgusting.”
Reporter Hallie Jackson later noted that the mother of Johnson had also said that she felt disrespected by Trump.
“Given that, is the president reconsidering the way he communicates with these families? Has General Kelly counselled him on how he might want to choose or change his words in the future?” she asked.
“General Kelly was present for the call and thought it was completely appropriate,” Sanders replied. “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.”
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