WH Implies Staffer Who Mocked ‘Dying’ McCain Was Betrayed By Colleagues

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 26: White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah takes questions from reporters during a press briefing at the White House on Monday, March 26, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
The Washington Post/The Washington Post

White House spokesman Raj Shah on Monday refused to condemn or further explain White House staffer Kelly Sadler’s closed-door remark last week that mocked Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) as “dying.”

But in any work environment, Shah said at one point during a press briefing Monday, “if you aren’t able in internal meetings to speak your mind, or convey thoughts or say anything that you feel without feeling like your colleagues will betray you, that creates a very difficult work environment.”

The reported comment — McCain’s opposition to CIA director nominee Gina Haspel didn’t matter, Sadler told other communications staffers during a meeting, because “he’s dying anyway” — has caused an uproar. McCain’s daughter, Meghan McCain, said Sunday that Sadler promised her in a phone call that she would apologize publicly. That hasn’t happened.

“I understand the focus on this issue but it’s going to be dealt with, and has been dealt with, internally,” Shah said separately Monday. “I was told Kelly Sadler called the McCain family late last week and did apologize, and beyond that I don’t have further comment.”

A reporter pressed on why the White House seems more concerned that the comment was leaked than the comment itself.

“Well, I think we’re concerned about all sorts of matters, but this is an internal matter, it’s being addressed internally,” Shah said. 

“Can you explain how it’s being addressed internally?” another reporter asked.

“Obviously, if I explain all that, then it won’t remain internal,” Shah replied.

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