MIAMI GARDENS, FLA. (WSVN) - A snowballing war of words between a South Florida congresswoman and the Donald Trump administration’s chief of staff reached a fever pitch this week when she responded to claims that have since been disputed in a story published in the Sun-Sentinel.
In a new interview with The New York Times posted online, Friday night, U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., went beyond calling Chief of Staff John Kelly a liar. She is quoted as saying, “The White House itself is full of white supremacists.”
The latest twist comes after days of name-calling and accusations between Wilson and Kelly amid growing controversy surrounding Trump’s condolence call to the widow of Myeshia Johnson, the widow of U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson.
“He can’t just go on TV and lie on me,” Wilson said in an interview with CNN Friday morning. “How dare he?”
Johnson, a Green Beret from Miami Gardens, and three other soldiers were killed in Niger after, officials said, they were ambushed by Islamic State-linked militants, Oct. 4. That incident is now under investigation by the Department of Defense.
Kelly’s allegation involves the FBI building in Miramar. The chief of staff claims Wilson bragged about her work securing funding for the structure at the building’s dedication in 2015.
“How she took care of her constituents because she got the money, and she just called up President Obama, and on that phone call he gave the money, the $20 million to build the building,” Kelly said during a White House news conference, Thursday. “She said that, and we were stunned.”
Kelly accused Wilson of grandstanding on a day that was supposed to be about honoring FBI agents killed in a 1986 gunfight for whom the building would be named.
However, a story published in the Sun-Sentinel on Friday cites a video of the dedication showing Wilson’s full speech. The footage, pulled from the newspaper’s archives, shows Kelly didn’t get his facts straight, the report states.
“It’s very clear from the video that Congresswoman Wilson didn’t say what the White House chief of staff said she did,” said Anthony Man with the Sun-Sentinel.
“She talked for about nine minutes, a little more than minutes, and for most of the time, she was effusively praising the FBI agents who were killed in the line of duty and praising other law enforcement officers,” said Man.
“It is our patriotic duty to lift up Special Agent Benjamin Grogan and Special Agent Jerry Dove,” Wilson said in the 2015 speech.
In that same speech, the congresswoman spoke of her mission to get the building, not funded, but officially named in honor of the FBI agents in less than four weeks, something that she was told was impossible.
Wilson told the crowd, “I said, ‘Excuse my French: Oh, hell no. We’re going to get this done.’ Immediately I went to attack mode.”
Wilson went on to explain that, after working with other members of Congress, Obama signed the bill into law just days before the ribbon-cutting. “The president signed the bill into law this past Tuesday, April 7th, 2015 with a bang, bang, bang,” she said.
“So [Kelly] didn’t tell the truth, and he needs to stop telling lies on me,” Wilson told CNN.
While the speech doesn’t support Kelly’s allegations, the White House is standing by his claim. “He was stunned that she had taken that opportunity to make it about herself,” said Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
When a reporter pressed her on the matter, Huckabee Sanders replied, “If you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that’s something highly inappropriate.”
This week of ugly exchanges between Wilson and the White House was sparked by allegations from the congresswoman that the commander in chief was insensitive to Myeshia Johnson when he called her to express his condolences.
“Everyone is tired of the back and forth,” said Wilson.
The congresswoman said this day is not about a war of words but about honoring an American hero.
“My emphasis today is on my constituents and helping them lay our hero to rest,” she said.
7News has reached out to Wilson’s office for more clarification on her comments in the New York Times interview, but as of Friday night, there has been no response.
Friday afternoon, a spokesperson for Wilson said the 2015 video backs up the congresswoman’s account about the dedication of the FBI building.
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