President Donald Trump delivered a controversial condolence call in early October to the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, Myeshia Johnson. Her husband was killed in Niger two weeks prior, according to New York Daily News. After Johnson came forward and discussed Trump’s lack of respect during the call, one thing became astonishingly clear: Trump has no understanding of how to treat military families.
Although Trump unsurprisingly denies it, Johnson has quoted Trump as telling her, “[Her husband] knew what he signed up for … but when it happens it hurts anyway.” For anyone grieving, these are the last words one would want to hear, especially from the leader of the nation.
Trump’s remarks are insensitive and uncivil. Rather than using empathy to console Johnson, or perhaps, even thanking her for her husband’s service, Trump chose to minimize the immense loss she suffered and disrespect a man who died for his country.
In addition to Trump’s transgression against Johnson, he continued to lie about his phone calls to military families, going as far as to say that he has “reached out to relatives of all of the 20-plus service members who’ve died since he took office—although at least a half-dozen of the families told The Washington Post they’ve yet to hear from him,” according to New York Daily News.
No one expects Trump to contact the families of every single service member who loses their life while he serves as president. That would be unreasonable for anyone, however, he should not be lying about the extent to which he is reaching out to these individuals.
Trump’s wrongdoing to military families is drawing attention to himself, rather than drawing attention to those who served their country and died doing so. It is extremely upsetting to see this kind of behavior from our president, and his actions serve as further proof that he is incapable of handling veterans’ surviving families with the delicacy and respect they deserve.
Karen Meredith, the Gold Star and Military Families coordinator for VoteVets, responded to the recent controversy over Trump’s condolence calls to military families, saying, “Mr. Trump, stop. Please, just stop. Your actions and words on this entire matter of the fallen in Niger are disgraceful, and unbecoming of a President of the United States and Commander in Chief. This is not about you, it is about them,” according to New York Daily News.
What it boils down to is Trump’s inability to care. The worst aspect of his call to Johnson was the fact that the president didn’t recall her husband’s name, according to New York Daily News. There is no situation in which that kind of behavior should be acceptable.
Of course, Trump has denied all of this in a tweet claiming, “I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from the beginning, without hesitation!” He’s also stated that Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson, who as been Johnson’s spokesperson, is a liar and he’d like her to release another statement, claiming that her reports on the conversation are false.
Wilson hasn’t backed down though, and rightfully so. Putting aside Trump’s track record with truthfulness for a moment, when he takes to Twitter and resorts to personal attacks, it makes his word far more difficult to believe.
We will never know exactly what was said in that condolence call between Trump and Johnson, but nonetheless, he is still entirely unequipped to gracefully deal with the families of the fallen. These people have lost a loved one, a tragedy which they can never fully recover from, and Trump is incapable of treating these individuals with basic human decency and sympathy.
Trump must designate someone who has the proper sensitivity to provide grieving families with the reverence they deserve, or step it up himself and think about the unimaginable loss these families have suffered. We need to demand better from our commander in chief and support the military families as they fight for the respect they are owed.