One of the very first Trump campaign scandals involved the candidate mocking Senator John McCain’s military service, saying: “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”
Therefore it’s unsurprising, yet still appalling, that President Trump and his allies are not handling McCain’s battle with terminal brain cancer with much grace.
McCain has been home in Arizona since the end of last year, but in response to Gina Haspel’s confirmation hearing on Wednesday, he issued a statement urging his colleagues to vote against her for CIA director. McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, said that while he believes Haspel is a “patriot,” he believes “her refusal to acknowledge torture’s immorality is disqualifying.”
A source told The Hill that when McCain’s statement came up during a closed-door meeting of about two dozen White House communications staffers on Thursday morning, special assistant Kelly Sadler mocked the senator. “It doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway,” Sadler said, according to the source. The remark was reportedly met with “discomfort” in the room.
The White House did not deny the story, saying only: “We respect Senator McCain’s service to our nation and he and his family are in our prayers during this difficult time.”
Sadler has yet to publicly respond, but a source said she called the senator’s daughter, Meghan McCain, to apologize.
There’s been no public confirmation that Sadler apologized, and on Thursday night it did not seem like the McCains had moved past the remark. Cindy McCain, the senator’s wife, tweeted:
Meghan McCain didn’t address the comment herself, but she retweeted her mother’s response, and other messages defending her family:
Sadler’s reported remark was the third controversial dig related to McCain’s health or military service this week. First Senator Orrin Hatch said it’s “ridiculous” that McCain doesn’t want Trump at his funeral. Then on Fox Business Network retired Air Force lieutenant general Thomas McInerney said we know torture is effective because it worked on McCain, referencing the nickname “Songbird John.” (There is no evidence that McCain gave up useful information, and the name was pulled from a false 2008 campaign flyer.) Hatch and Fox Business Network host Charles Payne apologized for the remarks.