White House aide Kelly Sadler thought it would be funny to joke about Sen. John McCain’s failing health. Sadler, who’s in charge of surrogate communications, claimed that no one should be worried about the Arizona senator’s opposition to Tump’s CIA pick because “he’s dying anyway.”
CNN reports that Sadler’s “joke” fell flat.
McCain (R-Ariz.), who announced last year that he’d been diagnosed with brain cancer, has been absent on Capitol Hill for long stretches since the diagnosis. He recently noted that when he dies, he doesn’t want President Donald Trump to attend his funeral.
On Wednesday McCain, who has been a staunch opponent of the use of torture, called for his fellow senators to oppose Gina Haspel’s nomination for CIA director because of abusive interrogation methods used by those under her watch.
McCain called Haspel a “patriot” in his statement Wednesday but implored senators to vote against her confirmation.
“Ms. Haspel’s role in overseeing the use of torture by Americans is disturbing,” McCain’s statement read, The Hill reports. “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.”
Sadler reportedly called the senator’s daughter Meghan McCain on Thursday to apologize for the comment, and a White House official issued a statement to CNN about Sadler’s comment.
“We respect Senator McCain’s service to our nation,” the official said. “He and his family are in our prayers during this difficult time.”
After learning that McCain was against her confirmation, Haspel issued a statement noting that she has the “utmost respect” for one of the longest-serving senators in history.
“I have the utmost respect for Senator McCain, and I appreciate the thoughtfulness with which he has approached this nomination process,” she said.
The tension between the White House and McCain began last summer after McCain traveled to Washington, D.C., to record a no vote for Trump’s effort to repeal Obamacare. McCain’s dramatic thumbs-down was the official nail in the coffin of a tightly contested proposal.
South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a close friend of McCain’s, warned that McCain’s health is no joking matter.
“Ms. Sadler, may I remind you that John McCain has a lot of friends in the United States Senate on both sides of the aisle,” Graham said. “Nobody is laughing in the Senate.”