The White House is standing by Chief of Staff John Kelly after he called Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson an “empty barrel,” though a video obtained by a newspaper shows his account of her comments at 2015 building dedication that triggered his disgust does not entirely hold up.
“General Kelly was stunned that Wilson made comments at a dedication event honoring slain FBI agents about her own actions in Congress, including lobbying Obama about legislation,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders stoutly insisted at a raucous Friday briefing.
“As Gen. Kelly pointed out, if you’re able to make a sacred act like honoring American heroes all about yourself you’re an ’empty barrel’,” Sanders said. “If you don’t understand that, reference I’ll put it a little more simply. As we say in the South: All hat, No cow.”
At the previous day’s briefing, a disgusted Kelly censured Wilson for having talked about herself so extensively during a 2015 dedication of an FBI building named after slain agents. He said she similarly disgraced herself this week when she took the TV to blast President Donald Trump for his call of condolence to the widow of a soldier killed in an ISIS ambush in Niger.
Wilson blasted Trump for saying Sgt. La David Johnson knew what he was signing up for, but that his death no doubt was painful for Myeshia Johnson. Wilson, who heard a portion of that phone call, said his words distressed the widow.
In response Kelly, himself a Gold Star father, called Wilson an “empty barrel” who previously had praised herself at that 2015 building dedication for raising the funds for the building during what should have been a solemn occasion focusing on the slain agents for whom the building was named. Wilson shot back that she was not a member of Congress when the building received its funding.
In a video obtained by the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Wilson is seen speaking about the two agents, and pat herself on the back for securing approval of the naming of the building.
When reporters in today’s briefing noted Kelly got his facts wrong, Sanders fought back, insisting Wilson had made “grandstanding” comments not caught on the video but “witnessed by many people there.”
“He said he was stunned she took the opportunity to make it all about herself,” Sanders added. When reporters persisted, she added, “If you want to go after Kelly it’s up to you. If you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that’s something highly inappropriate.”
One reporter noted Trump similarly had grandstanded with inaccurate boasts about the size of his inaugural crowd, shortly after being sworn in, while standing in front of the wall at CIA HQ that commemorates agency officers killed in the line of duty. Sanders was having none of that, insisting there was no parallel.
Did Trump fumble his word choice in that condolence call, Sanders was asked. “If the spirit of which the comments were intended was misunderstood, that is very unfortunate,” she responded.