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Gold Star Widow: Trump Call 'Made Me Cry Even Worse'

Myeshia Johnson kisses the casket of her husband, Army Sgt. La David Johnson, during his burial service on Saturday in Hollywood, Fla. Sgt. Johnson was killed in an ambush in Niger on Oct. 4.
AFP/Getty Images
Myeshia Johnson kisses the casket of her husband, Army Sgt. La David Johnson, during his burial service on Saturday in Hollywood, Fla. Sgt. Johnson was killed in an ambush in Niger on Oct. 4.

Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Army Sgt. La David Johnson, one of the four U.S. soldiers killed in a military operation in Niger on Oct. 4, told ABC's Good Morning America that President Trump "made me cry even worse" when he called to offer condolences last week.

The phone call between the president and Johnson has been a source of controversy for a week now, since Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., who listened in on the call, revealed details of the conversation.

Johnson said she was at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, on the air strip ready to receive her husband's body, when the call came from Trump to the master sergeant accompanying her. Johnson asked that the call be put on speaker, so her family could hear.

She said she didn't like Trump's tone and that she broke down when Trump fumbled her husband's name.

The president "said that 'he knew what he signed up for, but it hurts anyways,'" Johnson recounted. "It made me cry, because I was very angry at the tone of his voice and couldn't remember my husband's name."

She said he then had her husband's name on a report in front of him. She described Trump as "stumbling on my husband's name – that's what hurt me most. He's out there fighting for our country, why can't you remember his name? ... He was an awesome soldier."

She described herself as "very, very upset and hurt. It made me cry even worse."

Trump responded on Twitter Monday morning, saying he spoke Sgt. Johnson's name "without hesitation!"

The episode began after Trump was asked by a reporter why he hadn't addressed the deadly Niger mission for nearly two weeks after it occurred. He went on to say that previous presidents didn't always call the families of fallen service members, and invoked the death of his chief of staff's son in commenting on the practices of President Obama following military casualties.

Trump and the White House have gone after Rep. Wilson's character for several days. White House chief of staff John Kelly told a story to show Wilson as a self-aggrandizing attention-seeker which was later shown to be inaccurate on key facts; White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders described her as "all hat and no cattle" during a press briefing (Wilson is known for the colorful cowboy hats she wears); and President Trump over the weekend described her as "wacky" as he sent a series of tweets.

Mrs. Johnson, however, backed up Wilson, someone she said is close to her family. La David Johnson was in a mentoring program for black youth in Miami that Wilson started. And Johnson said her uncle-in-law was Wilson's elementary school principal.

"Whatever Ms. Wilson said was not fabricated," Johnson said Monday morning. "What she said was 100 percent correct. Why would we fabricate something like that?"

Johnson said she has received little information from the military about how her husband died. She wants to see his body to confirm it's him, but the military has not allowed that, she said. Johnson said the military told her initially that he was missing and then two days later said he was "killed in action." She wants to know why it reportedly took 48 hours to find his body – and even questioned if it's really him in the coffin.

"They won't let me see anything," she said. "I don't know what's in that box. It could be empty for all I know."

Johnson was asked if she had anything to say to the president. "No," she said. "I don't have nothing to say to him."

Johnson is pregnant and due Jan. 29 with a baby girl. Johnson said she will "tell her how awesome her dad was, what a great father he was and how he died as a hero."

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Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.