Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have harshly denounced White House communications aide Kelly Sadler’s gleeful characterization of Senator John McCain’s ailing health.
During a White House communications meeting Thursday, Sadler flippantly dismissed concerns about McCain’s opposition to Gina Haspel’s confirmation to lead the CIA.
“It doesn’t matter. He’s dying anyway,” Sadler said, according to The Hill.
McCain’s fellow Arizonan, Republican senator Jeff Flake, responded Friday, tweeting simply “There are no words.”
Senator Joni Ernst (R., Iowa) followed suit, tweeting, “Our nation should be grateful for the exemplary service and sacrifice of [McCain], and treat this war hero and his family with the civility and respect they deserve.”
GOP Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina slammed the comments as “outrageous and unacceptable” in a Friday tweet. “It’s a sad day in this country when White House officials are mocking a man who was tortured as a prisoner of war,” Jones said. “He’s more than earned the right to speak out on these matters. A public apology should be issued immediately.”
Democratic lawmakers, as well as former vice president Joe Biden, joined their Republican colleagues in defending McCain.
Biden cast the comments as broadly reflective of the character of White House personnel. “People have wondered when decency would hit rock bottom with this administration. It happened yesterday,” he said in a Friday statement. “Given this White House’s trail of disrespect toward John and others, this staffer is not the exception to the rule; she is the epitome of it.”
Senator Jack Reed (D., R.I.) accused Sadler of “cruelly mock[ing] veterans” and called the behavior “unacceptable.” Reed’s fellow Rhode Island Democrat, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, took to Twitter to ask, “Is part of being low and small that it’s irresistible to show just how low and small you are?”
“Our politics may be different but John McCain is an American hero,” tweeted Democratic representative Gerry Connolly of Virginia. “The vile and repugnant attacks we’ve seen from POTUS, WH staff and the far right are disgusting and show how small they are next to this honorable man.”
The White House has neither denied nor apologized for the comments. McCain’s daughter, Meghan, questioned that lack of response Friday morning.
“I don’t understand what kind of environment you’re working in that that would be acceptable and then you can come to work the next day and still have a job,” she said on ABC’s The View, which she co-hosts. “My father’s legacy is going to be talked about for hundreds and hundreds of years. These people are nothing-burgers. Nobody’s going to remember you.”