In October 2017, the White House chief of staff made an incorrect claim about Democratic Miami Rep. Frederica Wilson, saying that she claimed credit for funding an FBI building in Miami in 2015. More than one year later and John Kelly has yet to apologize to Wilson for his remarks, according to the congresswoman, who spoke with The Miami Herald on Monday.
In a video uploaded by The Sun Sentinel, it was evident that Wilson did not claim to finance the FBI building, as Kelly claimed, but that she pushed for naming the establishment after two FBI agents who were killed in a shootout in 1986. During his diatribe against the Democratic congresswoman, Kelly also called Wilson an "empty barrel." Bustle has reached out to the White House for comment from Kelly.
This controversy was sparked by Wilson's criticism of President Donald Trump's behavior when he called the widow of a late American soldier, Myeshia Johnson. The widow, whose husband La David Johnson was killed in a military operation in Niger in October 2017, said the president struggled to remember the soldier's name (Trump disputed this). Wilson, who represents the Johnsons in Florida’s 24th congressional district, criticized Trump, who then called her "wacky."
On Monday, Wilson told The Miami Herald, "I truly thought [Kelly] would be fired long before now. I think the president was hesitant because of the publicity that he can't hold staff or he's a bad manager." As for an apology, Wilson said that "not a word" came from Kelly so far.
"I think [Kelly] made it very clear when he was asked by the media over and over and he said that he would never apologize," Wilson told The Miami Herald. "I think my concern was when he attempted to slander me and to impugn my integrity as a sitting member of Congress when he went to the White House briefing room and actually spoke about it to the American people."
After Kelly and Trump mocked Wilson, she told The Miami Herald she got violent threats, including nooses. "I have received death threats," Wilson said, "and I have received nooses through the mail. However, I have received so much support from the American people."
"Maybe some people in American knew who Frederica Wilson was two years ago but 90 percent of the people know who Frederica Wilson is now," the congresswoman told the publication.
Wilson also said that Kelly, who is expected to leave the White House by the end of December — after months and months of rumors of his exit — had tainted his own reputation by making that false claim against her. The former four-star Marine general had lost "a star every six months," she told The Miami Herald.
"It started with me," Wilson added, "but there were so many other instances where he was not this man... that everyone expected him to be. He lost all of his stars, all four stars through many more instances that involved racism, misogyny, and immigration."
Recalling Kelly describing her as an "empty barrel," Wilson said that the term carried racial connotations against her as an African-American woman.
To make amends, Wilson suggested that Kelly should turn to a pastor to seek forgiveness for his words not only to her, but also to the undocumented immigrants whom Kelly once told NPR lacked skills and failed to "assimilate into the United States into our modern society."