Frederica Wilson Takes Shot at John Kelly on His Way out the Door: ‘Good Riddance’

Trump’s outgoing chief of staff never apologized for referring to congresswoman as an ‘empty barrel’

Florida Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson tweeted her assessment of Gen. John Kelly’s duration as White House chief of staff: #MissionUnaccomplished. (CQ Roll Call file photo)
Florida Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson tweeted her assessment of Gen. John Kelly’s duration as White House chief of staff: #MissionUnaccomplished. (CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted January 2, 2019 at 2:31pm

Rep. Frederica Wilson has three words for John Kelly on his last day in the White House: “Good riddance. Goodbye.”

Wilson issued her parting words for the outgoing chief of staff and retired Marine general in a tweet Wednesday.

Wilson summarized Kelly’s tenure as a “#MissionUnaccomplished.”

There has been bad blood between Kelly and Wilson since he referred to her as an “empty barrel” after she criticized Trump for what she saw as an insensitive call he made to the family of one of her constituents who was killed in a special operations mission in Niger. 

Wilson elaborated in statement later Wednesday in which she challenged Kelly’s reputation in the media as a decorated general who tempered the president’s impulsive decisions on personnel, foreign policy and immigration.

“John Kelly was hired to bring order to the White House and help keep President Trump in check. He not only did not achieve these goals but also mired himself in controversies,” Wilson said, citing in particular his description of Dreamers as “lazy” and his leading role in shaping the administration’s child separation policy, among other headline-grabbing statements and positions.

“Gen. Kelly is leaving the White House with each of his four stars deeply tarnished,” Wilson said.

President Donald Trump announced Kelly would depart “toward the end of the year” in early December. 

Kelly’s exit brings a close to his long simmering feud with Wilson.

Kelly sought to undercut Wilson in 2017 after she criticized Trump’s comments in a call to Myeshia Johnson, the widow of an Army sergeant killed in an ambush in Niger. Wilson overheard a call in which Trump told Johnson that the sergeant “knew what he signed up for.”

In criticizing Wilson’s response to the call, Kelly incorrectly said that she derailed the dedication of a Federal Bureau of Investigation building in her district to brag about having “called up President [Barack] Obama for the funding,” characterizing her as part of a “long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise.” 

Kelly’s claim inflamed supporters of the president. Wilson became the target of death threats, including racist threats of lynching and nooses through the mail. The threats became so severe that she could not cast votes.

A video of the event eventually proved Kelly’s claim to be false. Still, he has stood by his comments and ignored calls for him to apologize to Wilson.

“When he lied about me from the podium in the White House briefing room, he lied to the American people,” Wilson said in her statement. “He turned my efforts to support my Gold Star family into a firestorm of lies and insults that no sitting member of Congress should ever have to endure.”

Wilson confirmed to McClatchy in December that she has heard “not a word” from Kelly despite fresh calls for him to apologize from fellow Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of California and Democratic Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

Watch: 2018 in 5 Minutes: The Best of Congressional Hits and Misses

Loading the player...