Trump accused of disrespecting family of US soldier killed in Niger

This article is more than 12 months old

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump was snarled in fresh controversy yesterday after he was accused of being disrespectful to a US soldier slain in an ambush in Niger, as well as showing insensitivity to the grieving family.

Mr Trump moved quickly to dispute descriptions of his conversation with the pregnant widow of Sergeant La David Johnson, 25, who was one of four US service members killed in a jihadist ambush on Oct 4.

But two accounts of his condolence call suggest the president struggled to convey an empathetic tone.

"President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband," Sgt Johnson's mother, Ms Cowanda Jones-Johnson, told the Washington Post.

She said she agreed with an earlier account of the call, given by a lawmaker who said she heard part of the conversation and accused Mr Trump of insensitivity for telling Johnson's pregnant widow Mrs Myeshia Johnson that the young soldier "knew what he was signing up for".

"I didn't hear the whole phone call, but I did hear him say, 'I'm sure he knew what he was signing up for, but it still hurts,'" Mrs Frederica Wilson, a Democratic congresswoman from Florida, told CNN.

Mr Trump denied making the comments, tweeting yesterday: "Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!"

He later told reporters: "I did not say what she said." He added: "I had a very nice conversation."

When asked about what proof he could offer, Mr Trump said: "Let her make her statement again then you will find out."

Sgt Johnson was among four US soldiers killed in Niger, where Islamic State in Iraq and Syria fighters have established a presence.

The military has released few details about what happened, and on Tuesday Senator John McCain, who heads the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the Trump administration was not being forthcoming with information.

Miami native Sgt Johnson's body was returned home on Tuesday afternoon.

His wife, who is expecting the couple's third child, sobbed loudly while cradling his coffin after it was taken off a military plane.

After Mr Trump's call, the widow cried and broke down. "And she said, 'He didn't even know his name,'" Mrs Wilson said, referring to Mr Trump and the dead soldier.

Mr Trump had faced criticism for not contacting the families of the soldiers killed in Niger right away.

On Monday, he said he had written them letters and would call soon, while accusing his predecessor Barack Obama of neglecting to call as many grieving families as himself. - AFP

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