Trump invited Navy SEAL widow Carryn Owens to joint address during January condolence call

White House said he invited her to his joint address more than a month ago.

ByABC News
March 1, 2017, 2:52 PM

— -- The White House on Wednesday shared more details behind the surprise emotional highlight of President Trump's joint address to Congress -- the attendance of the widow of a fallen Navy SEAL, who died in a controversial January ground mission in Yemen.

According to press secretary Sean Spicer, President Trump's decision to invite Carryn Owens and her children to his speech dated back to his call to her relaying his condolences following news her husband, Chief William "Ryan" Owens, was killed during the raid in Yemen.

During Trump's initial condolence call, Spicer said, the widow did not at first accept the invitation. However, Trump asked a military aide to follow up with her and she accepted at a later date.

The White House did not release her name on the list of guests in the First Lady's box prior to the address, Spicer said, to respect her privacy and avoid media attention in advance of the speech.

The Yemen raid was thrown back into the spotlight late last week, after Owens' father gave an interview to the Miami Herald calling for an independent investigation into the mission and questioned whether Trump should have made the call to move forward with the operation.

In an interview with Fox and Friends, Trump seemed to pass blame for the operation onto President Obama and military leaders who had advised him about the raid.

"This was a mission that started before I got here," Trump said. "This was something that was, you know, they wanted to do. And they came to see me. They explained what they wanted to do, the generals."

During his speech last night, Trump said he spoke again with his Defense Secretary James Mattis who "reconfirmed" the raid was "highly successful" and "generated large amounts of vital intelligence."

He said the fallen Navy SEAL had "laid down his life for his friends, for his country, and for our freedom."

"Ryan's legacy is etched into eternity," Trump said.

The moment sparked more than two minutes of applause and a standing ovation for Carryn Owens, who tearfully stood to acknowledge the response, from lawmakers in the chamber.

Owens and her three children also visited the White House for a private meeting with the president during the day Tuesday, though her children did not attend Trump's address to the joint session of Congress itself.

According to Spicer, President Trump had Owens' permission to use her story in his joint address and dismissed those who accused the president of playing politics with a fallen soldier's widow.

"She has a right to honor the legacy and sacrifice of her husband," Spicer told reporters.

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