Donald Trump told the widow of a fallen US soldier that “he knew what he was signing up for”, it was claimed yesterday as an attempted condolence backfired spectacularly.
The US President was said to have made the comment when calling the wife of La David Johnson, a 25-year-old killed recently in Niger, West Africa.
Two people listening into the call - including Mr Johnson’s mother - confirmed he made the remark and called it “disrespectful”.
However Mr Trump denied the claim in the strongest terms and said he had “proof” the words had not been spoken, implying a recording existed.
The row comes after Mr Trump faced criticism earlier this week for how he consoles relatives of America’s war dead, when he in turn criticised Barack Obama.
The trigger had been the killing of four US Special Forces soldiers in Niger, which Mr Trump did not publicly acknowledge for 12 days.
In an effort to defuse the row, Mr Trump called Mr Johnson’s widow Myeshia, who picked up while being driven to the airport where her husband’s body was being returned.
Listening in on the call, which was put on speaker phone, was Democratic Congresswoman Frederica Wilson as well as other family members.
Ms Wilson later claimed that Mr Trump had said of the fallen soldier: “He knew what he was signing up for, but I guess it hurts anyway.”
Ms Wilson said that Mr Johnson’s widow was “crying the whole time” during the call, adding: “When she hung up the phone, she looked at me and said, ‘He didn’t even remember his name.’”
The comment triggered a furious back and forth as the US President denied the comments were ever made but other corroborated the claims.
Mr Trump tweeted: “Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!”
He later added: “I didn't say what that Congresswoman said; didn't say it all. She knows it.
My heart is broken for the family of La David Johnson. 6 month pregnant 25 year old widow with 2 other kids. No words. Please show her some love and support!pic.twitter.com/X4lvPgVxhK— Kanisha Jackson (@Kanisha1Jackson) October 18, 2017
“I had a very nice conversation with the woman, with the wife who was — sounded like a lovely woman. Did not say what the Congresswoman said, and most people aren’t too surprised to hear that.”
However Ms Wilson responded: "I still stand by my account of the call b/t Donald Trump and Myeshia Johnson. That is her name, Mr. Trump. Not ‘the woman’ or ‘the wife’.”
The Congresswoman’s account was later verified by the soldier’s mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, who had been listening in on the call.
She said: “President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband.”
The White House did not confirm or deny Ms Wilson’s account on Tuesday. An official said: “The President’s conversations with the families of American heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice are private.”