“I am hesitant to say ‘the president has hit a new low,’ because you’ll think it’s a repeat,” cracked Bill Maher at the top of his Real Time monologue Friday night.
The political satirist was addressing reports that President Trump called the pregnant widow of a U.S. soldier who was killed during an ISIS ambush in Niger, Sgt. La David Johnson, and told her he “knew what he signed up for.” To add further insult to injury, Trump is alleged to have referred to him as “your guy,” seemingly because he didn’t know his name.
Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) claimed to have overheard the callous comment during a speakerphone call on Tuesday between Trump and Myeshia Johnson, the sergeant’s widow, as they were in a car en route to receiving the soldier’s body. Both Myeshia Johnson and Sgt. Johnson’s mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, confirmed the congresswoman’s claim.
Trump, for his part, contested Rep. Wilson and the Johnson women’s accounts of the call, arguing that he “had a very nice conversation” with Johnson, and that Rep. Wilson had “fabricated” her story.
“On Monday, Trump called the pregnant widow of a dead American soldier to console her and ended up pouring salt in the wound and feuding with her all week,” cracked Maher. “I mean, if you could take a week where it was revealed that Harvey Weinstein sexually assaulted every single female in show business and still be the worst fat, gross creep, that’s pretty good.”
This is not only a bad joke but an incredibly faulty comparison, and the suggestion that President Trump’s disrespectful phone call to a Gold Star widow is somehow worse than a powerful film mogul allegedly sexually harassing or assaulting over forty women is just plain wrong.
Maher went on to explain how Trump’s week-long spat with a congresswoman and a pregnant Gold Star widow followed Trump’s familiar pattern of “bluff, lie, attack”—“bluff” because he doesn’t know anything, and then “lie” and “attack” in order to defend his misstatements.
“Three weeks ago, four of our Green Berets were killed in the African country of Niger and Trump didn’t say anything for two weeks. But someone put him on the spot about it last week, so he bluffed and said, ‘I wrote them letters’—of course he didn’t. He probably didn’t even know about them because they didn’t do anything that could get on his radar, like kneel at a football game,” said Maher.
He added, “What kind of cretin in the whole history of the world has ever had to deny something he said in a condolence call?!”
During her daily briefing on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders came out and claimed that the president’s chief of staff, Gen. John Kelly, felt his call to Johnson was “respectful” and “completely appropriate.” Then on Thursday, Gen. Kelly himself defended Trump’s call, while lamenting the broader so-called decline in American values.
“When I was a kid growing up, a lot of things were sacred in our country,” Kelly said. “Women were sacred, looked upon with great honor. That’s obviously not the case anymore as we see from recent cases. Life, the dignity of life, is sacred. That’s gone. Religion, that seems to be gone as well. Gold Star families, I think that left in the convention over the summer.”
Cue Maher: “Then, General Kelly laments a short list of things that—in his youth—he said he always thought would be sacred, but no longer are: women, Gold Star families,” offered Maher, before imitating Gen. Kelly and adding, “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go back to defending my boss, the pussy-grabber who insults war widows.”
During the panel portion of the show, political commentator Margaret Hoover—who, in the interest of full disclosure, is the wife of our editor-in-chief John Avlon—called Chief of Staff Kelly’s comments “Spicer-esque,” referring to the oft-ridiculed former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who repeatedly lied about the crowd size of President Trump’s inauguration and once, when discussing Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, said that “even Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons.”
“It was like Sean Spicer in that moment after the election, right, where he says, ‘These are the largest crowds in the history of any inauguration,’” Hoover said of Gen. Kelly. “The president demands that people who work for him go out and do his bidding at the expense of their own moral authority.”