MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell accused Gen. John Kelly of "dehumanizing" Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), and blamed it on his upbringing in an Irish-Catholic Boston neighborhood.
O'Donnell, who noted he also hails from a similar part of Boston, said Kelly was raised in Oak Square, Brighton.
"[They] have more in common than John Kelly realizes," O'Donnell said, defending comments Wilson made in which she labeled Kelly's "empty barrels" comment racist.
Wilson claimed that one of Kelly’s terms for her – an empty barrel – was “racist,” even though she also said she hadn’t heard of an empty barrel before.
Pressed on the matter during Friday’s press briefing, Sanders said Kelly was “stunned that Rep. Wilson made comments at a building dedication honoring slain FBI agents about her own actions in Congress, including lobbying former President Obama on legislation.”
He said Kelly's neighborhood in the 1950s was "segregated by custom and practices," while Wilson's Miami was segregated by law at the time.
"John Kelly never sat beside a student like Frederica Wilson in his elementary school," O'Donnell said, adding that racist language directed at minorities in the South mirrored that of Irish precincts in Boston.
O'Donnell said he grew up in a different Irish-Catholic neighborhood but went to school near Kelly's home and said people yelled epithets at minorities and egged Sen. Edward Kennedy's (D-Mass.) motorcade because of his politics.
He claimed that Kelly used the "empty barrel" phrase in a ethnically derogatory manner, saying that it would've been "the nicest thing" a child in Kelly's neighborhood would say to Wilson.
O'Donnell clarified that he understood some of Kelly's criticisms of Wilson since the general is a Gold Star Father, but said that his story about Wilson dedicating an FBI office was uncalled for.
Kelly first used the phrase "empty barrels make the most noise" when Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) questioned his military service.
Kimberly Guilfoyle called O'Donnell's comments "racist, awful and horrific."