White House official reportedly mocks McCain’s brain cancer diagnosis
PHOENIX — A White House official allegedly mocked U.S. Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) brain cancer diagnosis at an internal meeting on Thursday, The Hill reported.
“It doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway,” special assistant Kelly Sadler allegedly said.
The comment was reportedly made in response to McCain’s opposition to Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump’s nominee for CIA director.
The publication said the comment was confirmed by a source familiar with the remarks at the meeting.
Two sources told The Hill that they believed the remark was a joke but said it did not go over well, adding that there was “discomfort” in the room after it was made.
The comment was later confirmed by a Fox News producer and a CNN reporter, who referred to it as a joke that “fell flat.”
NEW: 2 WH sources who heard the comment, confirm to me, that WH communications official Kelly Sadler joked about @SenJohnMcCain ‘s Brian cancer during WH meeting. In response to McCain’s opposition to Haspel CIA nomination, she said:“ It doesn't matter, he's dying anyway.” https://t.co/ygSUYJ5CyG
— Fin Gomez (@finnygo) May 10, 2018
A WH official confirms WH aide Kelly Sadler mocked John McCain’s cancer diagnosis saying “he’s dying anyway” in response to his opposition to Haspel nomination. The “joke… fell flat” the official said.
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) May 10, 2018
Maggie Haberman, a reporter for The New York Times, said some people in the room “gasped” in response to the comment, while “a few laughed.”
The White House also did not deny the remark, which was made during a closed-door meeting with about two dozen communications staffers, according to The Hill.
In a statement, the White House said they “respect Senator McCain’s service to our nation and he and his family are in our prayers during this difficult time.”
Sadler did not respond to a request for comment from the publication. McCain’s office also did not give a comment to the publication.
Haberman tweeted that Sadler called Meghan McCain, the senator’s daughter, to apologize.
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) May 11, 2018
Cindy McCain, the senator’s wife, issued a response to Sadler on Twitter.
@kellysadler45 May I remind you my husband has a family, 7 children and 5 grandchildren.
— Cindy McCain (@cindymccain) May 10, 2018
McCain, a 81-year-old former Navy pilot, has been fighting cancer since he was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer, in July 2017.
The typical survival period after a diagnosis is 12 to 15 months, though a small percentage live longer than five years.
McCain recently underwent surgery at Mayo Clinic in Phoenix to treat an intestinal infection related to diverticulitis.
The meeting was led by deputy press secretary Raj Shah.
McCain released a statement on Wednesday urging Congress to oppose Haspel’s nomination, saying “her refusal to acknowledge torture’s immorality is disqualifying. I believe the Senate should exercise its duty of advice and consent and reject this nomination.”
This was not the first time that McCain has been mocked by the administration: In 2015, Trump said McCain was not a war hero because he was captured by the North Vietnamese and spent five and a half years as a prisoner of war.
“He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured,” Trump said at the time.
Retired Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney also mocked McCain’s prisoner of war status on Thursday, telling Fox News that “[torture] worked on John. That’s why they call him ‘Songbird John.'”
Graham: McCain in good spirits while spending time in Arizona
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told The Associated Press that McCain was in good spirits on Thursday, saying that he was eating, in good humor and keeping tabs on world affairs from his Arizona home.
Graham, who spent several days this week with his longtime friend, said McCain was going to “be with us for a while to come.”
The pair watched the film “The Man who Shot Liberty Valance” – with McCain narrating along – and talked about the future, according to Graham.
Graham said McCain was on the mend, stabilizing and “always looking for the next battle.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.