White House press secretary Sean Spicer got into a heated exchange Wednesday with NBC News reporter Kristen Welker after she questioned whether last month's raid in Yemen that killed a Navy SEAL was successful and if it had hampered the Trump administration's ability to fight terrorism effectively.
"It's absolutely a success — and anyone who suggests it's not is a disservice to Ryan Owens," Spicer said, referring to Chief Special Warfare Operator William "Ryan" Owens.
Owens, 36, from Peoria, Ill., died Jan. 28 from wounds suffered during that weekend's raid on an al-Qaida base in Yemen.
He was the first known U.S. military combat casualty since President Donald Trump took office Jan. 20.
Four other American troops were injured in the firefight — and al-Qaida leaders said 25 people, including 11 women and children, were killed.
Trump had a "somber and lengthy" conversation with Owens' family that weekend at Dover Air Force Base, Spicer told reporters at the time.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that Yemen had requested a suspension of American ground operations, but the country's foreign minister denied the story Wednesday.
"My statement is very clear on that, Kristen: Anybody who undermines the success of the raid owes an apology to the life and service of Chief Owens," Spicer said Wednesday during the daily White House press briefing. "Future attacks will be prevented.
"The life of Chief Ryan Owens was lost for this country — and we owe him and his family a great debt," he added, as Welker tried to cut off Spicer with another question. "Otherwise, it is a disservice to his life, and his service to this country.
"I don't know how much clearer I can be, Kristen."
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