Administration officials were full of praise for Sen. John McCain but they all pointedly declined repeated opportunities to apologize to him for a cruel joke by a White House communications aide. The aide, Kelly Sadler, told Meghan McCain she would publicly apologize for saying at a private meeting it didn’t matter that Sen. John McCain, who is battling brain cancer, opposed President Donald Trump’s pick for CIA director because “he’s dying anyway.”
Meghan McCain said Sadler apologized to her and her family during a phone call. The senator’s daughter said the apology should be public. “When I had a conversation with Kelly, I asked her to publicly apologize and she said she would,” Meghan McCain said. “I have not spoken to her since and I assume that it will never come.”
On Sunday, Trump advisers declined to comment on the remarks that were leaked from the closed-door meeting. On CNN’s State of the Union, national security adviser John Bolton said he remained grateful for McCain’s past support. “John McCain came to my defense in 2005 when my nomination to be U.N. ambassador was under criticism,” Bolton said. “He and I didn’t know each other very well at the time. We certainly didn’t agree on each and every position that he or I take. But he spent countless hours trying to help me out.” When he was pushed to talk about Sadler’s remark, Bolton said he wasn’t in the room and couldn’t comment. “I’ve said what I’m going to say on the subject,” Bolton said when asked whether the White House should apologize.
Sen. Bernie Sanders became one of the voices in Washington who seemed flabbergasted at the White House’s seeming insistence not to apologize for the remark. “It is beyond my comprehension. It is one thing in the White House for somebody to say something crude and stupid and disrespectful about an American hero,” Sanders said on CNN. “It is another thing for them not to apologize. So, it is beyond my comprehension. And I just don’t know what goes on in that White House mentality for there not being an apology for that terrible remark.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham also condemned the “disgusting” remark about McCain and said the White House needed to speak up. “If it was a joke, it was a terrible joke,” the South Carolina Republican said on CBS’ Face the Nation. “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.”