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A White House aide openly mocked Arizona Sen. John McCain's opposition to CIA nominee Gina Haspel by chiding that he's “dying anyway” from his battle with brain cancer, a source with knowledge of the conversation told The Hill Thursday.
Communications office special assistant Kelly Sadler, who assists in crafting external messaging and talking points, made the comment during a closed-door staff meeting.
“It doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway,” Sadler said, according to a White House aide familiar with the remarks.
Individuals present when the remark was made told The Hill that while Sadler likely meant the remark as a joke, there was “discomfort” in the room.
The White House did not deny Sadler's remarks and instead offered this statement to The Hill: “We respect Senator McCain’s service to our nation and he and his family are in our prayers during this difficult time.”
Haspel, who issued a statement to the Washington Post, offered similar remarks.
“I have the utmost respect for Senator McCain and I appreciate the thoughtfulness with which he has approached this nomination process,” Haspel said.
Cindy McCain, the Arizona senator's wife, tweeted at Sadler's official account, writing: “May I remind you my husband has a family, 7 children and 5 grandchildren.” Sadler did not respond to request for comment but another source familiar briefed The Hill that she called daughter Meghan McCain to apologize.
“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,” he said. "Nobody is laughing in the Senate.”
Though criticism of the Vietnam veteran is not a stranger to this White House. During the presidential campaign, Trump ridiculed McCain's service and capture.
“He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured,“ Trump said in the summer of 2015. ”I like people that weren’t captured."