When the emotional widow of a recently fallen soldier was en route to claim her husband's body, President Trump called to offer his condolences. According to Myeisha Johnson, the widow of Staff Sgt. La David T. Johnson, and Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson, that phone call included Trump saying, "He must have known what he signed up for." Trump immediately came under criticism for reportedly giving such a flippant remark, and he denied having said it. Now, tweeters who think Wilson's version of events is the accurate one are using the hashtag #IBelieveFrederica to broadcast support for Rep. Wilson.
Wilson was in the vehicle with the grieving widow when Trump's condolence call was put on speakerphone. Describing Johnson's immediate reaction to Trump's words, Wilson told MSNBC, "She was crying the whole time, and when she hung up the phone, she looked at me and said, ‘He didn’t even remember his name.’ That’s the hurting part.”
Trump and his defenders accuse Wilson of politicizing the death of Sgt. Johnson, with some asking why the congresswoman was there with Johnson in the first place. "I mentored this young man from a little boy in elementary school through high school,” Wilson told ABC, referring to the 5000 Role Models of Excellence mentorship program she founded in 1993.
Sgt. Johnson also attended the elementary school named for Wilson in Miami Gardens, Florida. "We sent him to college," Wilson said. "These are people that I have known since they were little children. His uncle went to my elementary school. I was his principal."
Plenty of people on Twitter believed Wilson.
Some have also accused Trump of politicizing Johnson's death. In his first comments in response to the four servicemen killed in Niger, Trump remarked seemingly offhand that past presidents hadn't made phone calls to Gold Star families. "You look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn't make calls, a lot of them didn't make calls," he said.
As many pointed out on Twitter and elsewhere, that claim is patently false.
Others have also backed up Wilson's version of events. Cowanda Jones-Johnson, the mother of Sgt. Johnson, was also present for the president's call. “President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband," she told The Washington Post. Jones-Johnson confirmed that Trump had uttered what most see as the most controversial part of the conversation: "He must have known what he signed up for."
Staff Sergeant La David T. Johnson was killed in action in Niger, his body missing for two days after the initial attack. Along with 11 other U.S. military personnel, Johnson was attacked near the Niger-Mali border. U.S. troops had been sent there to help Niger combat terrorism. Up to 50 ISIS militants attacked the small group of American soldiers, with Johnson reportedly getting separated from the rest. Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright were also killed in the ambush.
As he's often wont to do, Trump used Twitter to express his disapproval of Wilson and disagreement with her version of his conversation with Johnson. On Wednesday, Trump wrote, "Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said" to Johnson. He followed up with a tweet Friday calling Wilson a "wacky Congresswoman."
Besides Trump's habit of labeling adversaries with derogatory descriptors, the president's tweets also followed a pattern of claiming those who disagree with him speak only "fabricated" lies. Between 2012 and January 2016, Trump called no less than 93 people and entities liars or guilty of lies.
Johnson and her husband's family have corroborated Wilson's version of Trump's phone call to the grieving widow. Trump and his defenders have argued he did not say what they claimed he said, or that it was not meant as a cavalier dismissal of Sgt. Johnson's sacrifice. Tweeters using #IBelieveFrederica have made their decision as to who deserves belief.