Trump again calls congresswoman’s account of Gold Star call a ‘total lie’ as Trump fundraising arm launches NFL National Anthem petition

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(CNN) -- President Donald Trump once again refuted a congresswoman's account of his call with the grieving wife of a slain US service member, deeming it a "total lie" hours after his own chief of staff seemed to bolster a key piece of her story.

"The Fake News is going crazy with wacky Congresswoman Wilson(D), who was SECRETLY on a very personal call, and gave a total lie on content!" Trump tweeted Thursday evening.

Earlier this week, Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Florida, said she overheard the President tell the grieving widow of a soldier who was killed in action in Niger that "he knew what he signed up for, but I guess it still hurt."

Wilson also said on CNN's "New Day" that Trump did not know the name of the service member and that the wife "broke down" after the call.

Thursday night's tweet echoed chief of staff John Kelly who took to the White House press briefing room lectern to defend Trump.

The chief of staff said he was "stunned" that Wilson had listened to the call on speaker phone, but he added that the message the President tried to convey included the idea that "he knew what he was getting himself into."

"In his way," Kelly said of Trump, he "tried to express that opinion. That he's a brave man, a fallen hero. He knew what he was getting himself into, because he enlisted. There's no reason to enlist, he enlisted. ... That was the message. That was the message that was transmitted."

Joyce Jones, a spokeswoman for Wilson, said the congresswoman stands by her story, but "has decided to not make any further comment on this issue."

"The focus needs to be on helping a grieving widow and family heal, and should not be on her or Donald Trump," Jones said of Wilson. "She has nothing else to add but stands by the statement issued last night."

Kelly isn't the only one defending the president.  A fundraising committee has launched a petition calling for supporters to be counted among those who believe in standing for the National Anthem.

The message is paid for by a joint fundraising group between Trump's campaign and the Republican National Committee and is posted on the Republican Party's official website. The petition asks for a full name, email address and zip code as a sign of patriotism and support for the National Anthem.

Trump has sparred with the NFL and the players who have protested during the National Anthem, putting himself in the middle of a controversy with significant racial and cultural undertones. The Trump campaign team earlier this month offered supporters an "I STAND FOR THE FLAG" sticker in exchange for contributions of at least $5 to the committee, and Trump himself has frequently tweeted on the subject.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said earlier this week at an owners meeting in New York that players are not attempting to disrespect the flag in kneeling during the anthem, although he urged them to stand. However, the league said it will not mandate that players stand for the anthem despite Trump's continued requests.

Anthem protests began at the start of last season, when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat on the bench during a preseason game's national anthem.

Protests spread this season after Trump suggested at an Alabama campaign rally last month that NFL owners fire players who kneel during the Anthem. Trump later said players should be suspended.

Dozens of players have taken a knee during the anthem to protest racial injustice. Kaepernick, now a free agent, has filed a grievance against team owners, alleging they colluded to keep him from being signed.