Rep. Wilson Tells Kelly to 'Stop Telling Lies,' Says 'Empty Barrel' Is 'Racist Term'

By Susan Jones | October 20, 2017 | 8:27am EDT
Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) responds to Gen. John Kelly on CNN's "New Day" on Oct. 20, 2017. (Photo: Screen grab/C-SPAN)

( - Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) said White House Chief of Staff John Kelly "needs to stop telling lies on me," and she accused him of describing her with "a racist term" when he likened her to an "empty barrel."

In an interview with CNN's "New Day" on Friday, Wilson also said her emphasis right now is on the family of Sgt. La David Johnson, killed in Niger, and his "last moments." "I want to know why he was separated from the rest of the soldiers," Wilson said.

"Why did it take 48 hours for them to find him? Was he still alive? Was he kidnapped? What's going on? I thought you were supposed to put your comrade across your shoulder and get on the helicopter with the dead and the wounded. Why did they leave him? I am distraught, and so is the family."



Wilson said she did hear Kelly's defense of President Trump's condolence call to Sgt. Johnson's widow. She also heard Kelly say that Wilson, in the 2015 dedication of an FBI building in Miami, had bragged about getting the money for the building.

According to Kelly: "A congresswoman stood up, and in a long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise, stood up there in all of that and talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building, and 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, and she sat down," Kelly said on Thursday. "And we were stunned, stunned that she'd done it. Even for someone that is that empty a barrel, we were stunned," Kelly said.

Wilson responded on Friday:

"I heard his remarks and I heard him say that I bragged that I secured the money for the building...And that's a lie. You know, I feel sorry for General Kelly, he has my sympathy for the loss of his son, but he can't just go on TV and lie on me. I was not even in Congress in 2009 when the money for the building was secured. So that's a lie. How dare he! However, I named the building at the behest of Director Comey, with the help of Speaker Boehner...So he didn't tell the truth, and he needs to stop telling lies on me."

Asked about Kelly saying "empty barrels make the most noise," Wilson said, "That's a racist term. I'm thinking about that when we looked it up in the dictionary because I had never heard of an empty barrel. And I don't like to be dragged into something like that.

"The only thing I want to be dragged into right now is 'bring back our girls,' who are the victims of Boko Haram in Nigeria." Wilson said she's been fighting for the freedom of the kidnapped Nigerians for four years.

She also doubled down on her criticism of the way Trump worded his condolences to Mrs. Johnson, even though Gen. Kelly explained why Trump said what he did.


"That is not a good message to say to anyone who has lost a child at war. You don't sign up because you think you're going to die. You sign up to serve your country. And when he says, he died surrounded by his friends -- he was abandoned! That did not apply to him. He was abandoned for two days. For 48 hours? Why?" she asked.

Wilson said every soldier is different. She said Trump should have called the widow by her name; he should have called La David "your husband" instead of "your guy," and he should have expressed sympathy simply by saying, "I am so sorry."

"He doesn't need to talk about what people sign up for," Wilson said.

Wilson told CNN it might help if President Trump would reach out to her charity for young men, called "5000 Role Models of Excellence," and helping her make those boys into "good men."

Wilson said she's working hard every day to keep boys on the right path and send them to college.

"If he wants to help us," Wilson said of President Trump, he could help her establish a White House commission on the social status of black men and boys. "That would help our entire community," she said.


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