White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders conceded on Friday evening that "everyone can be questioned" while defending her earlier remarks in which she said debating chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE would be "highly inappropriate."
"Of course everyone can be questioned but after witnessing General Kelly's heartfelt and somber account, we should all be able to agree that impugning his credibility on how best to honor fallen heroes in not appropriate," Sanders said in a statement to media outlets.
In statement on Kelly flap, Sarah Huckabee Sanders concedes that "everyone can be questioned." But: pic.twitter.com/Df6ZACmSsD— ErikWemple (@ErikWemple) October 20, 2017
The Trump spokeswoman sparked pushback earlier Friday when she claimed during a White House press briefing that it would be "highly inappropriate" for reporters to question Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general and Gold Star father.
"If you want to go after Gen. Kelly, that's up to you, but I think if you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that's something highly inappropriate,” Sanders said.
Various members of the media criticized the comment.
"I have tremendous respect for the military but the notion that no one can even question the statements of generals is un-American," CNN anchor Jake Tapper wrote on Twitter.
The thing with America is everyone gets to question everyone. It's messy and beautiful and fundamental to how we roll.— Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzHotel workers need a lifeline; It's time to pass The Save Hotel Jobs Act Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by The American Petroleum Institute — Scientists potty train cows to cut pollution Conservation group says it will only endorse Democrats who support .5T spending plan MORE (@brianschatz) October 20, 2017
Sanders made the comment while defending Kelly after the White House chief of staff mischaracterized comments from Rep. Frederica WilsonFrederica Patricia WilsonBiden's embrace of Trump-era border policy frustrates Democrats Five big questions as Jan. 6 panel preps subpoenas Biden to meet with Surfside families as rescue efforts enter eighth day MORE (D-Fla.) at the briefing the previous day.
Kelly pointed to remarks Wilson made at the dedication of a building to fallen FBI agents in 2015, calling her an "empty barrel." Kelly said the congresswoman had used her dedication speech at the event to show “how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building.”
However, subsequently released video of the event showed that Wilson had touted her and other lawmakers’ effort to have the building named after two slain FBI agents, but did not discuss funding.
The war of words between Kelly and Wilson came after the congresswoman revealed that Trump told the widow of a soldier killed in Niger earlier this month that he "knew what he signed up for."
The mother of Army Sgt. La David Johnson said that she felt disrespected by the president. Kelly appeared at the White House briefing on Thursday to defend Trump's call to the family and others.