The father of a slain US serviceman told CNN he believes critics of President Donald Trump’s reported comments to a soldier’s widow mistook his intended meaning.
Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Florida Democrat, said the President told the widow of Army Sgt. La David Johnson, who was killed during an ambush in Niger, “He knew what he signed up for, but I guess it still hurt.”
Wilson, who said she heard the remarks via speakerphone, called them “insensitive.” Trump has said Wilson “fabricated” the comments. The White House has declined to comment, calling the conversation private.
But Gold Star Father Craig Gross, whose son was Cpl. Frank Robert Gross, said Trump’s “words are basically being taken and misconstrued.”
“President Trump is doing a lot of good things as far as Gold Star families are concerned,” Gross said. “I believe that if you interviewed him personally, one on one, you would find that he is very, very empathetic and very compassionate, not only toward Gold Star families but also in regards to our active duty.”
Ryan Manion, whose brother was 1st Lt. Travis Manion, told anchor Alisyn Camerota that honoring the memory of the fallen should be the priority.
“I think at the end of the day, what we have to look at is the idea of politicizing Gold Star families,” Manion said. “What is important to Gold Star families is to make sure that their loved one’s service and legacy is remembered.”
Trump had been criticized for waiting almost two weeks to mention the Niger attack, either in public or in calls to the families. The October 4 raid left four US and five Nigerien service members dead.
The President said Monday that he’d written letters to the Americans’ relatives and planned to phone them later this week. He also falsely accused former President Barack Obama of having failed to write or call the families of slain American troops.
During the 2016 presidential election, Trump made headlines for repeatedly insulting two Gold Star parents, Khizr and Ghazala Khan, who publicly supported his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
At the time, Trump tweeted, “I was viciously attacked by Mr. Khan at the Democratic Convention. Am I not allowed to respond?”