Two Republican congressmen have called on President Trump to apologize after he suggested that the husband of Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI)—the late former lawmaker John Dingell—was in hell after she voted in favor of impeaching him.
The White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham made a rare TV appearance away from Fox News on Thursday to defend her boss on Good Morning America, but she said she had not spoken to him about making an apology.
At Trump’s rally in Michigan on Wednesday night, the president claimed that he gave the “A-plus treatment” when John Dingell died this year. Trump recounted his side of events, telling the crowd in Rep. Dingell’s home state that she had called him to express her gratitude. “‘John would be so thrilled. He’s looking down, he’d be so thrilled,’” Trump claimed Debbie Dingell said, before adding: “Maybe he’s looking up, I don’t know.”
Dingell issued a heartbreaking response to Trump's jibe, writing on Twitter late Wednesday night: “I’m preparing for the first holiday season without the man I love. You brought me down in a way you can never imagine and your hurtful words just made my healing much harder.”
Republican Congressman Fred Upton led the calls for an apology Wednesday night, saying on Twitter: “I’ve always looked up to John Dingell —my good friend and a great Michigan legend. There was no need to ‘dis’ him in a crass political way. Most unfortunate and an apology is due.”
Rep. Paul Mitchell, another Michigan Republican, followed on Thursday. “John Dingell was a well-respected man & I consider Debbie a close colleague and friend. To use his name in such a dishonorable manner at last night’s rally is unacceptable from anyone, let alone the President of the United States. An apology is due, Mr. President,” he wrote on Twitter.
Grisham did say she was sorry for Rep. Dingell’s loss—but refused to apologize on behalf of the president for his remarks.
“[Trump] was at a political rally, he has been under attack and under impeachment attack for the last few months, and then just under attack politically for the past two and half years,” said Grisham. “The president is a counter-puncher, it was a very, very supportive and wild crowd. He was just riffing on some of the things that had been happening the last few days.”
During another interview on CBS This Morning, Gayle King asked if she had cringed when she heard him attacking the recently deceased lawmaker in his home state. Grisham responded: “I didn’t hear him say that.”
Trump’s remarks came at a rally where he was trying to show that he maintains support despite Wednesday’s impeachment. On the prospect of a Senate trial, Grisham said Trump looks forward to a chance to prove to American voters that he did “absolutely nothing wrong.”