Late on Tuesday evening, Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL), one of the more radical members of the House of Representatives, told the media that one of her constituents, Myeshia Johnson, had been called by President Trump. Johnson is the widow of one of the soldiers, Sgt. La David Johnson, killed in Niger two weeks ago. According to ABC News:
In an interview with CNN Tuesday night, the Democratic congresswoman said of Trump's comment about Sgt. Johnson: "Basically he said, 'Well, I guess he knew what he signed up for. But I guess it still hurt.' That's what he said." When asked by ABC Miami affiliate WPLG if she was sure that is what she heard Trump say, Wilson responded, "Yeah, he said that. To me that is something that you can say in a conversation, but you shouldn’t say that to a grieving widow. And everyone knows when you go to war, you could possibly not come back alive. But you don’t remind a grieving widow of that. That’s so insensitive."
President Trump fired back on Twitter:
Which led Wilson to return fire: “the president is evidently lying … I have proof too, this man is a sick man.”
The media are running with the story; Wilson was, after all, present on speakerphone during the conversation. But the level of initial, unchallenged credibility accorded to Wilson is somewhat troubling. It is worth noting that back in May, Wilson stated that Trump was “on the brink of impeachment”; she made her national name by wearing colorful hats and crusading for the imprisonment of George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin case. She’s an ardent opponent of Trump’s. Just two days ago, President Trump enraged his opponents by stating (in evidence-free fashion) that President Obama did not call the families of slain American troops; it’s rather convenient that within 48 hours, an ardent Democrat would come up with a quote from Trump proving his lack of compassion to those same family members.
It’s entirely possible that Trump said what Wilson alleges. But we’re not hearing anything from Myeshia Johnson, who should be the one making this allegation. And we’re not seeing a transcript or hearing a recording. Which means that once again, we’re stuck in he said-she said land, where various partisan players can choose whether or not to believe their political favorites.
Here’s the position we should all be taking: we don’t know yet. We can have our suspicions, but we simply don’t know. Even Wilson’s replay of the conversation is a paraphrase, and there are ellipses in her quotes that do a lot of heavy lifting. Did Trump say that Johnson “knew what he signed up for” in response to something Johnson’s wife said? Did he say something else that got lost in the ellipses? We just don’t know.
So let’s wait for the transcript or the recording before either jumping to the conclusion that Trump is an unfeeling monster or that Wilson is an exaggerating hack. Is that too much to ask?