The Washington Post and other media outlets reported Thursday that Kelly Sadler, a White House communications official, dismissed McCain’s public opposition to President Trump’s CIA nominee by saying in a staff meeting, “It doesn’t matter; he’s dying, anyway.”
The elder McCain (R-Ariz.), 81, remains in Arizona, where he is receiving treatment for an aggressive and typically fatal type of brain cancer.
A White House spokesman did not dispute the report and said, “We respect Sen. McCain’s service to our nation, and he and his family are in our prayers during this difficult time.”
Questioned about the remark at the White House briefing, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday, “I’m not going to comment on an internal staff meeting.”
Separately Thursday, retired Air Force Gen. Thomas McInerney said during an appearance on the Fox Business Network that torture “worked on John” during McCain’s 5½ years in captivity during the Vietnam War. “That’s why they call him ‘Songbird John,’ ” McInerney said.
On Friday, Meghan McCain addressed Sadler directly: “Kelly, here’s a little news flash — and this may be a bit intense for 11 o’clock in the morning on a Friday — but we’re all dying. I’m dying, you’re dying, we’re all dying. And I want to say that since my dad has been diagnosed the past — it’s almost a year, July 19 — I really feel like I understand the meaning of life. And it is not how you die. It is how you live. And I always have had something to believe in, and my dad’s all about character and bipartisanship and something greater than yourself and believing in this country and believing in the fact that we as Americans can still come together. And that’s something that I grew up in and feeds me every day.”
She added a rebuke of the Trump White House: “I don’t understand what kind of environment you’re working in when that would be acceptable, and then you can come to work the next day and still have a job.”
Former vice president Joe Biden lashed out at the White House and defended McCain.
“People have wondered when decency would hit rock bottom with this administration. It happened yesterday,” Biden said in a statement Friday. “John McCain is a genuine hero — a man of valor whose sacrifices for his country are immeasurable. As he fights for his life, he deserves better — so much better. Given this White House’s trail of disrespect toward John and others, this staffer is not the exception to the rule; she is the epitome of it.”
Neither Sadler nor McInerney has publicly apologized. Charles Payne, the Fox host who interviewed McInerney, apologized Thursday for not challenging the “Songbird John” claim. Independent accounts of McCain’s time in North Vietnamese captivity do not include any suggestion that he offered any material information to his captors, and McCain says the same. He did, by multiple accounts, refuse offers of early release based on his status as the son of a Navy admiral.
“It’s a really ugly nickname,” Meghan McCain said Friday. “At some point, when you’re tortured, everyone breaks. I realize that is how it works. And that’s how you get false information.”