Condolence Call From President Causes Controversy


Photo via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons license.

Finn Hogan

On October 3rd, four U.S. soldiers were killed in Niger during a shootout with an enemy organization. One of these four soldiers, Sgt. La David Johnson, age 25, left behind his pregnant wife who has known him since he was 6. While waiting to receive her husband’s body, Myesha Johnson got a call from President Donald Trump.

According to NPR, Johnson was waiting on the air strip at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. She was accompanied by a driver, her aunt, uncle, a master sergeant (who initially received the phone call), as well as Florida representative Frederica Wilson. The call was put on speaker phone.

Myesha Johnson recalls that Trump “fumbled with her husband’s name” and “made her cry even worse”. According to Johnson and Wilson, the president said “he knew what he signed up for, but it hurts anyways”.

Wilson, who described herself as ‘livid’, reportedly tried to grab the phone and speak to the president herself. She says that she was ready to “curse him out”. Wilson wasn’t able to speak to the president directly, due to the master sergeant following protocol; “calls from the commander in chief are solely presidential condolence conversations”.

Both Johnson and Wilson have spoken to the press about the phone call. In an interview with ABC, Johnson stated, “I heard him stumbling on trying to remember my husband’s name, and that’s what hurt me the most, because if my husband is out here fighting for our country and he risked his life for our country, why can’t you remember his name?” She went on to say how she didn’t like the tone he was using with her. When asked if she wanted to say anything to the president, Johnson responded, “No, I don’t have nothing to say to him.”

Wilson told CNN, “Everyone knows when you go to war you could possibly not come back alive, but you don’t remind a grieving widow of that. That is so insensitive. So insensitive.”

Attention turned to Donald Trump as the public waited to see what he thought of the events of the call. On his twitter, Trump stated, “I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!” Along with twitter, Trump made a short statement during a meeting on tax reforms in the Cabinet Room; “I didn’t say what that congresswoman said. Didn’t say it at all… She knows it. And she now is not saying it. I did not say what she said.”

When asked by a reporter why he didn’t reach out to the families or address the deadly attack in Niger until a few weeks afterwards, Trump claimed it was because previous presidents “didn’t always call the family of fallen service members”. Trump went on to say that former President Barack Obama didn’t contact the families of fallen soldiers, a claim which was later proven false.

Myesha Johnson is still confused and doubtful about the details of her husband’s death. In an interview with ABC News, Johnson revealed that military officials are not allowing her to see her husbands body. “They told me that he’s in a severe, a severe wrap like I won’t be able to see him. I need to see him so I will know that that is my husband.” Johnson reports that at first, she was told that her husband was missing in action, and two days later was reported killed in action. She wants to know why it took so long to find her husband’s body. Along with the conflicting reports, Johnson has reported that she hasn’t been allowed to see her husbands body.

“They won’t show me a finger, a hand. I know my husband’s body from head to toe, and they won’t let me see anything… I don’t know how he got killed, where he got killed or anything, I don’t know that part. They never told me, and that’s what I’ve been trying to find out since Day One, since Oct. 4.”

Myesha and Wilson mourn the death of Sgt. La David Johnson, along with his family and friends. They hope to get the answers they are looking for soon. Johnson’s baby is reported to be born around January 29th, and she plans on teaching her daughter about what an ‘awesome’ soldier and a good man he was.