Florida's Legislative Black Caucus on Tuesday called for an apology from White House Chief of Staff John Kelly for misstatements about U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla.
State Sen. Perry Thurston, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat and chairman of the caucus, said the group is not making the same request from President Donald Trump.
“We understand that (Trump) may say anything on any given day,” Thurston said. “But we expect a four-star general (Kelly) to bring this president up to his level, not for the general to come down to the president's level. And that's why we're so disappointed with (Kelly's) conduct.”
Trump and Wilson, an African-American, have sparred over details of a telephone call that the president made to offer condolences to the widow of U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson.
Amid the sparring, Kelly claimed last week that Wilson boasted in 2015 about raising money for the FBI's Miami field office during the building's dedication ceremony. In a video of the ceremony —- posted by the Sun Sentinel —- Wilson discussed how she pushed for legislation to name the building after two fallen agents. No mention was made of Wilson securing the building's funding.
When asked about the Sun Sentinel video, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said last week during a press briefing that it would be “highly inappropriate” to “get into a debate with a four-star Marine general.”
Members of the Legislative Black Caucus wouldn't back Wilson's assertion that Kelly made a racist remark in calling her an “empty barrel.” But state Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, said comments from the White House that Wilson is “wacky” and “all hat with no cattle,” are “very demeaning and dehumanizing” to Wilson, a former state legislator.
“As far as I'm concerned, it's very sexist as well,” Gibson said. “I doubt that if it were a white male member of Congress, or a black male member of Congress, as a matter of fact, that what we have seen would not happen.”
The caucus also called for an explanation of the Oct. 4 death of Johnson and three other U.S. soldiers in Niger, as well as the military's purpose in the West African country.