White House: 'Unfortunate' if family offended by Trump remarks

The White House said Friday it is “unfortunate” if the family of Army Sgt. La David Johnson was offended by President Trump’s remarks during a condolence call with his widow. 

“If the spirit of which those comments were intended were misunderstood, that's very unfortunate,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. 

“His comments were very sympathetic, very respectful, and that was the spirit in which the president intended them,” she continued. “If they were taken any other way, that's certainly an unfortunate thing.”

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Sanders’s comments are the first White House response to criticism from the mother of the fallen soldier, Cowanda Jones-Johnson. 

“President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband,” she told The Washington Post this week. 

Jones-Johnson’s comments helped fuel the controversy that has enveloped the White House over Trump’s call. 

Trump and chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE, who made a rare press briefing room appearance Thursday to quell the criticism, have focused their ire on Rep. Frederica WilsonFrederica Patricia WilsonHouse passes bill establishing commission to study racial disparities affecting Black men, boys Florida county official apologizes for social media post invoking Hitler  GOP struggles to confront racial issues MORE (D-Fla.) 

Wilson first revealed that Trump told Johnson’s widow, Myeshia, that her husband “knew what he was signing up for,” a remark that she said angered the widow.

Trump initially stated Wilson “totally fabricated” her account of the call. But his aides have not disputed the president’s remarks. Instead, they have tried to explain his intentions. 

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Johnson was among four U.S. soldiers who were killed during an ambush in the West African nation of Niger. 

Trump faced questions earlier this week about why he waited 12 days to speak about the incident. The president said he had done more than his predecessors to honor the families of fallen soldiers, and added he would call relatives of the four soldiers who lost their lives in Niger.