A White House staffer made a crass 'joke' about Sen. John McCain's health. But Sarah Huckabee Sanders was reportedly angrier about the leak than she was about the comment itself.
Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain took a stance against Trump’s nominee for CIA director, Gina Haspel, over her record on torture. That led a White House staffer to make a nasty comment about McCain’s ill health and prognosis.
But press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was reportedly more upset that the staffer’s comment leaked out than she was about the comment itself.
During a closed-door meeting Thursday, White House special assistant Kelly Sadler said McCain’s opposition to Haspel needn’t concern anyone in the administration.
But her reason for saying so was vile.
“It doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway,” Sadler said, mocking 81-year-old McCain’s diagnosis of brain cancer.
Despite disgust and backlash, the White House refused to apologize for Sadler’s comments. Sanders told reporters that she would neither comment on the incident nor rebuke Sadler.
“I’m not going to validate a leak one way or the other out of an internal staff meeting,” Sanders said. And she justified her refusal to apologize by dismissing the controversy as “people [who] want to create issues of leaked staff meetings.”
In keeping with that attitude, ABC News reports that while Sanders “scolded” her staff over the comment, it appeared that her anger was focused elsewhere.
“Sanders called the comment ‘unacceptable,’ but was said to be more upset about the leak” than the mocking of McCain’s health.
Sadler herself did call McCain’s daughter to apologize, according to ABC News. Meghan McCain expressed frustration that a comment like Sadler’s wouldn’t result in firing.
“I don’t understand what kind of environment you’re working in when that would be acceptable and you can come to work the next day and still have a job,” she said on “The View” on Friday.
Yet Sadler’s comment actually fits in perfectly and repulsively well with the Trump administration.
After all, during the presidential campaign, Trump himself launched one of the nastiest political attacks McCain has likely ever received.
At the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa, Trump lashed out at McCain in petulance over the senator’s dislike for him. But Trump went beyond his usual absurd nicknames. He actually mocked McCain’s decorated military service and time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
“He’s not a war hero,” Trump insisted. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” He later added that he thought McCain had “done very little for the veterans.”
Trump, of course, never even went. He managed to secure five draft deferments, claiming he had “bone spurs” in one foot that prevented him from serving.
McCain himself indirectly slammed Trump for using his wealth and connections to avoid service.
“One aspect of the [Vietnam] conflict by the way that I will never ever countenance is that we drafted the lowest income level of America, and the highest income level found a doctor that would say that they had a bone spur,” McCain said during an interview with C-SPAN3.
“That is wrong,” he added.
It is indeed. As is saying a senator’s opinion on a crucial issue doesn’t matter because he likely doesn’t have long to live.
Sanders took her cues from Trump, insisting there was nothing to apologize for in Sadler’s crude comment. And no wonder, since just days ago at the NRA convention, Trump was on the attack again, this time against not just McCain.
He went after special counsel Robert Mueller, who earned a Bronze Star and Purple Heart as a Marine in Vietnam. And he smeared former Secretary of State John Kerry, who earned three Purple Hearts, a Silver Star, and a Bronze Star during his own service in Vietnam.
This White House is no friend to the military or to veterans, no matter who they are. Sanders’ refusal to thoroughly denounce a nasty attack against a war hero and member of Congress only goes to show that the administration sees nothing wrong with that.