WASHINGTON — The White Home declined on Friday to resign or apologize for an aide whose joke at a gathering that Senator John McCain was irrelevant as a result of he would quickly die went viral, outraging kin, buddies and admirers of the ailing lawmaker.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White Home press secretary, mentioned she wouldn’t touch upon a closed-door assembly the place the joke was made. And she or he provided no phrases of remorse over the comment or sympathy for Mr. McCain, a Republican senator and two-time presidential candidate who’s battling mind most cancers at his Arizona ranch.
“I’m not going to validate a leak one way or the other out of an internal staff meeting,” Ms. Sanders mentioned. Requested why she wouldn’t merely apologize to Mr. McCain, she mentioned, “I’m not going to get into a back and forth because, you know, people want to create issues of leaked staff meetings.”
However she denied that President Trump, who in 2015 mentioned that Mr. McCain was “not a war hero” as a result of he spent greater than 5 years as a prisoner in North Vietnam and that he most well-liked “people who weren’t captured,” had set a tone of disrespect. “We have a respect for all Americans and that is what we try to put forward in everything we do, both in word and in action, focusing on doing things that help every American in this country, every single day,” Ms. Sanders mentioned.
Mr. McCain’s buddies lashed out on the White Home for gross insensitivity. “People have wondered when decency would hit rock bottom with this administration. It happened yesterday,” former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. mentioned in a press release. “Given this White House’s trail of disrespect toward John and others,” he added, “this staffer is not the exception to the rule; she is the epitome of it.”
The aide, Kelly Sadler, a particular assistant to the president, made the touch upon Thursday, simply three days after Melania Trump unveiled what she referred to as a “Be Best” marketing campaign to encourage kids to place kindness first of their lives. Opposite to what Ms. Sanders mentioned, it got here not throughout an inner White Home workers assembly however throughout a session with congressional communications workers members.
The dialog turned to Mr. McCain’s opposition to Mr. Trump’s nominee for C.I.A. director due to her previous ties to an interrogation program that used torture on terrorist suspects. “It doesn’t matter,” Ms. Sadler mentioned, “He’s dying anyway.”
About 20 people had been within the room; some gasped whereas just a few laughed, in keeping with some who had been there, however nobody challenged Ms. Sadler on the time. Some colleagues mentioned afterward that they had been sad she made the comment, and the White Home issued a written assertion Thursday expressing respect for Mr. McCain. However Ms. Sanders confirmed that Ms. Sadler was nonetheless on the job.
Ms. Sadler works within the White Home communications workplace specializing in unlawful immigration. Based on a web based biography, she graduated from Hamilton School in 2002 with a level in Chinese language and worldwide relations and later earned a grasp’s diploma in broadcast journalism at Northwestern College. She has labored as a administration advisor after which as a reporter for Bloomberg and later The Washington Times.
Mr. McCain’s household expressed astonishment and outrage after the comment grew to become identified. “May I remind you my husband has a family, 7 children and 5 grandchildren,” his spouse, Cindy McCain, wrote to Ms. Sadler on Twitter.
Meghan McCain, the senator’s daughter, responded on “The View,” the ABC tv present the place she is a bunch. “I don’t understand what kind of environment you’re working in where that would be acceptable and then you can come to work the next day and still have a job,” she mentioned.
Ms. Sadler has made no public remark however referred to as Meghan McCain to apologize.
Ms. Sadler’s remark got here on the identical day a retired Air Pressure three-star common went on Fox Enterprise Community to deride Mr. McCain’s conduct as a prisoner of conflict. Mr. McCain was brutally and repeatedly overwhelmed however refused early launch except different captives had been additionally freed. However in discussing Ms. Haspel’s nomination, the retired common, Thomas G. McInerney, rejected Mr. McCain’s opposition to torture.
“The fact is, is John McCain, it worked on John,” he mentioned. “That’s why they call him ‘Songbird John.’”
That additionally drew a rebuke from Cindy McCain. “Please choose your guest more wisely,” she wrote to Fox Enterprise and the host, Charles V. Payne, on Twitter.
Mr. Payne went again on air later within the day to apologize for what he referred to as “false and derogatory” remarks, saying he didn’t hear them as a result of a producer was talking in his ear in the meanwhile.
“If I’d heard what he said the right way, I would have pushed back,” Mr. Payne mentioned. “I didn’t. I blew it.” As a navy veteran himself, Mr. Payne added, “Those reprehensible comments do not reflect how I feel or how this network feels about Senator McCain.”
Fox mentioned on Friday that it had reduce ties with Mr. McInerney and would now not guide him as a commentator.
Maggie Haberman contributed reporting.
Comply with Peter Baker on Twitter: @peterbakernyt.