A scholarship fund for the children of slain U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson has racked up over $400,000. President Donald Trump has been accused of being insensitive to Johnson's widow during a phone call and for promising a financial donation to another Gold Star family that he never delivered.
On Oct. 4, Johnson and three other U.S. military service members were killed during an ambush in Niger. The soldier is survived by his pregnant wife, Myeshia Johnson, and their two children.
Johnson was raised in Miami Gardens, Florida. During his youth he joined the 5,000 Role Models of Excellence, a mentoring program founded by Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida. On Oct. 17, the program established the Role Model Army Sgt. La David Johnson Scholarship for the slain soldier's three children to attend college when they come of age, according to the Miami Herald.
Activist Michael Skolnik created a GoFundMe page to help raise money for the scholarship. By Oct. 18, over 7,000 people had cumulatively chipped in over $400,000 in donations, Money reports.
Johnson's death drew national attention when Wilson accused Trump of being flippant when he called Ms. Johnson to offer his condolences. The Democratic lawmaker, who is a personal friend of the Johnson family, told reporters that she was present when Trump spoke to the bereaved widow on speakerphone and that the president said that the slain soldier "must have known what he signed up for."
"You know, just matter-of-factly, that this is what happens, anyone who is signing up for military duty is signing up to die," Wilson told MSNBC. "That’s the way we interpreted it. It was horrible. It was insensitive. It was absolutely crazy, unnecessary. I was livid."
Trump took to social media to deny Wilson's account of the phone conversation.
"Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof)," Trump tweeted out. "Sad!"
Mr. Johnson's mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, disclosed that she had also been present during the phone call and that she supported Wilson's description of the conversation.
"President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband," Jones-Johnson told The Washington Post.
Gold Star parent Craig Gross, whose son Cpl. Robert Gross was killed in 2011, defended Trump in an interview and told CNN that the president's "words are basically being taken and misconstrued ... I believe that if you interviewed him personally, one on one, you would find that he is very, very empathetic and very compassionate, not only toward Gold Star families but also in regards to our active duty."
The GoFundMe page for the Johnson scholarship has a set goal of $1 million.
Sources: CNN, Miami Herald, Money, MSNBC/YouTube, Sgt. La David T Johnson Scholarship/GoFundMe, The Washington Post / Featured Image: U.S. Army/Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: U.S. Army/Stars and Stripes, Time/YouTube