Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., said Friday that White House chief of staff John Kelly's use of the term "empty barrel" in a Thursday press conference was racist.
"That's a racist term, too. I'm thinking about that one. We looked it up in the dictionary because I had never heard of an empty barrel. And I don't like to be dragged into something like that," Wilson told CNN Friday morning. "The only thing I want to be dragged into right now is getting back our girls who are the victims of Boko Haram in Nigeria."
"Boko Haram and ISIS combined, and they killed my son," Wilson added.
"You mean Sgt. La David Johnson?" the CNN host asked.
"La David. My Role Model son, my Role Model son," Wilson clarified, referring to the 5,000 Role Models of Excellence program she founded in 1993 which helps at-risk minority youths prepare for college, vocational school, and the military. Johnson was a part of the program.
Kelly's reference to Wilson as an "empty barrel" was intended as a metaphor, he said Thursday, for someone "making the most noise." Kelly addressed the issue in a press conference at the White House in which he defended Trump, and lamented that presidential calls to the families of fallen soldiers are now used in political fights.
This week, President Trump told reporters at the White House that his predecessors had not called the next of kin of fallen service members to the extent he does.
The comment prompted backlash from previous presidents' staff members, and Wilson came forward to say she had been in the limousine with the family of Army Sgt. La David Johnson when Trump called. She said Trump made inappropriate comments to the family.
By Thursday, the debate shifted to now focusing on Wilson's claim that she obtained funding for a new FBI building while negotiating during a ceremony for FBI agents who had been killed on the job.
In 2015, Wilson spoke at the dedication and told the audience she was the one who got funding for the building. The ceremony had been focused on the deceased FBI agents.
"A congresswoman stood up, and in a long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise, stood up there in all of that and talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building, and how she took care of her constituents because she got the money, and she just called up President [Barack] Obama, and on that phone call, he gave the money, the $20 million, to build the building, and she sat down," Kelly told reporters Thursday.
"We were stunned. Stunned that she had done it. Even for someone that is that empty a barrel, we were stunned," Kelly added. "But none of us went to the press and criticized. none of us stood up and were appalled."
"That is crazy that I got [the money] and Mr. Obama just gave it to me," Wilson said Thursday evening. "That building was funded long before I got to Congress, I didn't say that. I have staff, people who write the speeches. You can't say that."