On Thursday afternoon, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly delivered dramatic remarks to the press, which included a detailed anecdote about Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), which was intended to highlight the Florida Democrat’s pettiness and offensive partisanship. A day later, however, we learned that Kelly’s story was fiction.
Over the weekend, the 17 women in the Congressional Black Caucus issued a statement demanding Kelly apologize to Wilson, and a New York Times editorial published today makes the case that Kelly has a responsibility to do exactly that.
Maybe he simply misremembered what happened that day; we all make mistakes. But a video of the event subsequently showed that Ms. Wilson had made none of the string of boasts that Mr. Kelly put in her mouth.
Did Mr. Kelly quickly acknowledge his errors? No. Instead, in the days since, he and the White House have added to his mistakes by refusing to correct them. All evidence to the contrary, they have continued to insist on Mr. Kelly’s false version, compounding the grief of the Johnson family, who laid Sergeant Johnson to rest on Saturday.
This continued to be the case yesterday. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders participated in a forum discussion at George Washington University – Shareblue posted a video excerpt – and was asked if Kelly was prepared to acknowledge that his story wasn’t true. Sanders was emphatic in her response.
“I don’t think General Kelly was wrong, and therefore I don’t think he should offer an apology,” Sanders replied.
Except we know Kelly was wrong. There’s video proof. This is not a “he said, she said” story in which the public is left to draw its own conclusions about the credibility of competing claims; this is a story in which we know with certainty that the White House chief of staff told a bogus story that he unfortunately presented as fact.
Sanders’ original defense – it’s “highly inappropriate” to question Kelly’s word, she said Friday – was offensive in a democracy, but her new defense – we shouldn’t believe our lying eyes and ears – is just bizarre.
The Washington Post had an interesting piece this morning on this White House’s modus operandi: “Trump’s actions [over the last week] have followed a careful formula that he long ago devised for winning a skirmish and that has been described by senior White House advisers: Make it a fight, use controversy to elevate the message and never apologize.”
This model apparently applies not only to Donald Trump, but also to the president’s team.