Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.) on Sunday called White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly “a puppet of the president” and said he should apologize for having made false claims about her while defending President Trump’s military condolence calls.
“Not only does he owe me an apology, but he owes an apology to the American people,” Wilson said during an appearance on MSNBC’s “AM Joy,” during which she also accused Kelly of “character assassination.”
The pointed words came on another day of sparring between Wilson and the White House after her criticism last week of Trump’s call to the widow of one of four service members killed in an ambush in Niger.
The president took to Twitter on Sunday morning, again attacking Wilson as “wacky” and calling her “the gift that keeps on giving for the Republican Party” and “a disaster for Dems.”
“You watch her in action & vote R!” Trump wrote.
During an appearance Thursday in which he defended Trump’s calls, Kelly called Wilson an “empty barrel” and falsely asserted that she had claimed credit in a 2015 speech for securing funding for a federal building. Wilson instead had pushed legislation to name the building after two slain FBI agents.
During her Sunday interview, in which she was asked about Trump’s repeated characterization of her as “wacky,” Wilson said, “That’s the way he is. I’m sick of him giving people nicknames.”
She was also critical of the lack of information from the Trump administration about the ambush and the circumstances surrounding the death of Sgt. La David Johnson, a family friend of hers and among the four soldiers killed in Niger.
“This is a catastrophe,” Wilson said. “We had four soldiers who died. They have been buried. And we need to know why, and we need to know about the special circumstances surrounding La David Johnson.”
On another Sunday television show, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said there was blame to go around in the condolence controversy.
Last week, Trump falsely said that he had done more than past presidents to reach out to families of military members killed in action.
Graham called Trump's criticism of President Barack Obama's handling of military deaths “absolutely the wrong thing to do” but also accused Wilson of having “politicized” Trump's call to Johnson’s widow.
Now, though, the president should return the focus to the soldiers, Graham said during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“How about a little time on who they were and why they did what they did and all those like them?” he said.
Tory Newmyer contributed to this report.