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Sarah Sanders Berated White House Staffers After McCain Joke Snafu—But Not About The Tasteless Joke

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders reportedly berated White House staffers after disparaging comments about Senator John McCain (R-AZ) were leaked to the press.


On Thursday, communications aide Kelly Sadler mocked the ailing McCain, who is battling brain cancer, saying that his opinion on Gina Haspel, President Trump's pick to run the CIA, "doesn't matter" because "he's dying anyway." But instead of firing Sadler, which would probably have occurred under normal circumstances, Sanders blasted the aides for leaking the comments.

Five aides then leaked Sanders' tirade to the media. White House staffers later told reporters that Sadler's comment was a "joke" that "fell flat." According to the leakers, Sanders wasn't surprised that the details of the meeting were shared. "I am sure this conversation is going to leak, too. And that's just disgusting."

"A WH official confirms WH aide Kelly Sadler mocked John McCain's cancer diagnosis saying "he's dying anyway" in response to his opposition to Haspel nomination. The "joke... fell flat" the official said."

And although the White House doesn't seem to feel Sadler's remarks deserve condemnation, prominent voices have been expressing their disappointment with the lack of disciplinary action by the White House.

"If it was a joke, it was a terrible joke," Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Face the Nation moderator Margaret Brennan. "I just wish somebody from the White House would tell the country that was inappropriate, that's not who we are in the Trump administration."

McCain's daugher Meghan called for Sadler's firing on The View on Friday. White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, however, defended Sadler's comments, telling Fox News that jokes made in private conversations should be protected. He also lamented that the insults were leaked.

"You have to have freedom to speak in a private meeting, to speak candidly. We've all said things in private, especially in smaller groups that we work with, that we would never say publicly."

"I'm really disappointed that someone would undermine the President by leaking that out of a private meeting."

Unfortunately, no apology or expression of regret have been issued by the White House or Sadler.

Twitter users shared their disdain for how Sanders handled the fallout, but few were surprised, given the pattern of vitriol that has become the norm in Trump's administration.