While comments by a White House official who mocked Senator John McCain’s brain cancer diagnosis at an internal meeting have caused widespread controversy for the Trump administration, Senator Bernie Sanders criticizes the White House for not issuing a statement apologizing for the incident.
Despite the fact that the Trump administration is standing by the official, communications staffer Kelly Sadler, and instead focusing on the leak of the comment more than its substance, Sanders said Sunday that it is beyond his “comprehension” that the White House has not apologized for the incident.
On Thursday Sadler mocked McCain’s health, saying “he’s dying anyway,” in response to the senator’s opposition to President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the CIA, Gina Haspel.
“It is one thing in the White House for somebody to say something crude and stupid and disrespectful about an American hero, it is another thing for them not to apologize,” the independent Vermont senator told CNN.
“It is beyond my comprehension,” Sanders said. “I just don’t know what goes on in that White House mentality for there not being an apology for that terrible remark.”
According to multiple senior White House officials, press secretary Sarah Sanders scolded her staff Friday for the derogatory comment about the leak that came from a closed-door meeting, but refused to offer an official apology. Instead, she stated that she would not “get into a back and forth because people want to create issues of a leaked meeting.”
ABC News reports that White House officials claim the leak was personally motivated against Sadler, adding a sense of paranoia inside the West Wing.
“It was obviously someone trying to hurt her,” said one White House official.
A senior White House official said they do not expect Sadler to be fired.
In defense of McCain
Former Vice President Joe Biden issued a statement decrying the statement and praising the 81-year old senator who fought in Vietnam, calling him “a genuine hero.”
“People have wondered when decency would hit rock bottom with this administration. It happened yesterday,” Biden said in the statement.
Former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney also jumped to McCain’s defense on Twitter as well.
The Arizona lawmaker, who is battling a brain cancer diagnosis he received last year, has urged the Senate to reject Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump’s nominee for CIA director.
McCain said in a statement that her role in overseeing torture by Americans is “disturbing” and that her refusal to acknowledge torture’s immorality is “disqualifying.” Haspel oversaw the torture of a terrorism suspect in a secret prison in Thailand in 2002 and was involved in the destruction of videotapes of the interrogations.
Bernie Sanders also told CNN that he agrees with McCain’s position on Haspel and will oppose her as CIA director.
“I would agree with John McCain … and tell you what our leaders in the armed forces say. If the United States condones torture for other people, then that subjects our own men and women who are captured to be tortured as well,” he said. “I have serious reservations about this nominee. And I will oppose her.”