Joe Henderson: Frederica Wilson’s record not so wacky
President Donald Trump gives the thumbs-up as he walks to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, April 18, 2017, for the short trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., en route to Snap-On Tools in Kenosha, Wis. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Donald Trump

President Donald Trump called U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida’s 24th Congressional District “wacky” in a tweet. He said she is the “gift that keeps on giving for the Republican Party.” He said she is a “disaster” for Democrats.

Let’s meet her.

She won her seat in 2010, and in 2014 was re-elected to a third term with 86 percent of the vote. Republicans didn’t bother to put a challenger in 2016. Before that, she was a teacher, principal and school board member in Miami-Dade. She has a reputation for fierce devotion to her district.

She served in both the Florida House and Senate before heading to Congress. In Tallahassee, she was elected Senate Minority Leader Pro Tempore and Minority Whip.

She worked with then-Gov. Jeb Bush to remove the Confederate flag from the state capitol. She established the 5,000 Role Models of Excellence program to secure college scholarships for young at-risk men.

“I worked with her in Tallahassee. She is a very nice lady, a caring person,” former longtime Republican legislator Mike Fasano said. “She has done a remarkable job with the role model program.  It has been very successful.”

Her district has endured more than its share of gun violence and death, leading her to become outspoken on the subject. Speaking at a breakfast to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Miami Herald reported she said, “That is what Dr. King would want us to do, take back the community from the hooligans. Only 7 percent of people in the inner city are prone to violence. The other 93 percent are tired of it.”

She has a reputation of giving comfort to military families in her district. That’s why, when the president called, she was in a limousine with the widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson after he was killed in an ambush with three other soldiers in Niger.

What started off as a condolence call became a national controversy when Wilson overheard him say on speaker phone that Johnson “knew what he signed up” when he joined the military.

Wilson called him out, Trump started tweeting that she made up the story, and Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly likened Wilson to a noisy “empty barrel.” Kelly pressed the attack, saying that at the dedication for an FBI field office in Miami, she patted herself on the back for securing $20 million in funding for the project.

Let’s go to the videotape.

Upon further review, video taken at the dedication showed she never said such a thing, leading the Miami Herald to say in an editorial that Kelly owed her a “sincere apology.”

It all came to a head when the fallen soldier’s widow, Myeshia Johnson, told Good Morning America that Wilson’s version of events is “100 percent correct.”

This story likely would have had a short news cycle had the president simply chosen to say his only wish was to comfort a grieving widow — and then drop it.

Alas, that’s not how it works with this president because, like a bully, he would rather push a bad position and resort to name-calling than admit he was wrong.

That’s especially true when it comes to attacking Gold Star families. No one has forgotten how then-candidate Trump took after Khizr and Ghazala Khan, whose son died while serving in Iraq.

Maybe that “gift keeps on giving” to the fevered base that cheers louder the more obnoxious he behaves, but it’s unbecoming to the office and disrespectful to both the fallen and a congresswoman who rightly called him out.

So, who’s really “wacky” here?

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


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