During his presser, General Kelly spoke about a time when Gold Star families and women were sacred. He is a sympathetic person as a Gold Star father, and he does present himself more like a president than the current president does.
General Kelly is also Donald Trump’s Chief of Staff, and it was in that capacity that he held that presser which means his comments are subject to public scrutiny.
First of all, we got here because Donald Trump was trying to stroke his own ego by bragging about his attentiveness to the families of fallen soldiers. General Kelly was one of several people sent out to clean up the mess that came from Donald Trump’s statements.
The first item on the agenda was Kelly’s recollection of what he was told when his son died to clean up the latest epic empathy fail by Donald Trump. We saw it when he defended Nazis in Charlottesville, The result: Heather Hayer’s mother refuse to take Trump’s condolence call. We saw it when Donald Trump insulted Puerto Rico on several occasions in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
Just like Charlottesville and Puerto Rico, Trump showed little ability to empathize or console people in pain. If anything, his input or presence made already tragic situations worse.
In this case, 24-year-old Mayeshia Johnson, who is expecting her third child, was mourning her loss and she needed comfort. The last thing anyone in the Johnson family needed during this very traumatic time was to be thrust in the middle of a Trump reality show drama.
Trump could have shut down the ever growing disaster without bringing Kelly into it. He could have called back to apologize for his comments, or clarify the intent of them or show some humility in his public remarks after the call.
Kelly was brought in to make this go away, by portraying Donald Trump in a more sympathetic light. That’s why he recounted the story of what he was told when he learned of his son’s death.
It’s also clear that Kelly’s real objective was to attack Congresswoman Wilson, who is in very real ways part of the Johnson family. Kelly’s presser had two casualties: facts and the sacredness of women that he talked about.
When speaking of Congresswoman Frederica Wilson Kelly said: “It stuns me that a member of Congress would have listened in on that conversation,” he said Thursday in the White House briefing room. “It stuns me. I thought at least that was sacred.”
First of all, the president’s call was put on speaker phone in a car carrying the Johnson women and Congresswoman Kelly. In other words, Congresswoman Wilson was there because the family wanted her there possibly because she is in very real terms a member of the family.
Wilson’s ties to the Johnsons date back to the days when she was the principle at La David Johnson’s father’s school. She was also La David Johnson’s mentor in a program called 5,000 Role Models of Excellence.
If, as Kelly rightly suggests, Gold Star families deserve respect for making the ultimate sacrifice for our country, that applies to the Johnson family’s right to decide who they want to be with during this unimaginably difficult time.
To suggest that Wilson’s presence somehow compromised the sacredness of communications between the President and a Gold Star family is ludicrous because she wasn’t there as a Congresswoman. She wasn’t there to surreptitiously eavesdrop on the conversation. Also, she was asked about the conversation by a member of the media.
It isn’t like she called someone in the media under an alias to promote herself or an agenda.
To close the loop, if the family objected to Congresswoman Wilson’s public comments or the fact she made public comments because she was asked a question, they could have simply declined to comment to the media at all. Rather, the family granted an interview where they supported Congresswoman Wilson’s account of the phone call.
Kelly sought to dehumanize Congresswoman Wilson as a woman and as a woman of color by avoiding saying her name and calling her an “empty barrel” that makes the most noise.
His tone and his comments created images of a nosey woman sneaking around to eavesdrop on conversations that are none of her business in the name of fulfilling some sinister political plot. This was after Trump attacked Wilson’s honesty, and given the Johnson women’s corroboration of her statements, he indirectly called this Gold Star family liars, too.
Kelly’s presser was also a display of misogyny, albeit a more refined version than that of his boss, Donald Trump. Most obviously, his comment about women being sacred rang hollow considering who he works for. It also rang hypocritical when Kelly dedicated most of his time at the presser dehumanizing a woman as an “empty barrel” that makes the most noise in the name of cleaning up the latest mess made by Donald J. Trump.