WH press secretary berates staff for leak of Sadler's McCain comment

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders privately berated the White House communications and press staff Friday aft...

Posted: May 13, 2018 4:33 PM
Updated: May 13, 2018 7:32 PM

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders privately berated the White House communications and press staff Friday after a leak the previous day of comments by aide Kelly Sadler about Sen. John McCain, according to several sources familiar with the meeting.

In discussing McCain's opposition to CIA nominee Gina Haspel, Sadler, a special assistant who handles surrogate communications for the White House, said in a private meeting Thursday that it doesn't matter "because he's dying anyway." It was a joke that fell flat, a White House official told CNN.

Despite publicly refusing to criticize the remark, Sanders told the press staff that Sadler's comment was inappropriate, according to several sources familiar with the meeting.

During the dressing down, Sanders focused more on how the remark was leaked apparently in an attempt to target Sadler with a damaging story, one of the sources told CNN.

White House strategic communications director Mercedes Schlapp spoke up during the session to defend Sadler, one of the sources said.

Both publicly and privately, according to the sources, Sanders has focused more on the leaking of the comment than its substance.

In Friday's White House press briefing, Sanders repeatedly said she would not "validate a leak" or comment on an internal staff meeting.

Asked directly why not simply apologize to McCain, who was diagnosed with brain cancer, and his family, she said: "I'm not going to get into a back and forth because people want to create issues of leaked staff meetings."

Sadler is still employed at the White House, Sanders said Friday.

Responding Saturday to the controversial comments, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina called Sadler's remarks a "disgusting thing to say" and said he was dissatisfied with the administration's response to the controversy.

"If it was a joke, it was a terrible joke," Graham, who is close friends with McCain and visited him in Arizona this week, told "Face the Nation" moderator Margaret Brennan in an excerpt of an interview set to air Sunday. "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."

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney pushed back Saturday on calls to fire the aide, saying the purported joke about McCain's health was "awful" but not worth firing her over.

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

Echoing Sanders' private comments to staffers, Mulvaney said the leak was designed to hurt Sadler and "completely ignored the harm it would do to the McCain family, which is doubly inconsiderate."

"I'm really disappointed that someone would undermine the President by leaking that out of a private meeting," he said, adding that he, as the director of the Office of Management and Budget, was not present at the meeting in which Sadler made the remark.

After her comment was reported Thursday, Sadler called Meghan McCain, the senator's daughter, to apologize for the remark, a source close to the situation told CNN.

Mulvaney told Fox News that in doing so, Sadler handled the situation "appropriately."

However, on "The View" Friday, McCain questioned how Sadler still had her job.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 295675

Reported Deaths: 6743
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto19690230
Hinds18812389
Harrison16722280
Rankin12725265
Jackson12603228
Lee9691160
Madison9466203
Jones7978147
Forrest7217138
Lauderdale6836226
Lowndes6031140
Lamar588480
Lafayette5736113
Washington5218130
Bolivar4612123
Oktibbeha441493
Panola430894
Pearl River4174130
Warren4130115
Pontotoc409771
Marshall403392
Monroe3990126
Union395674
Neshoba3817169
Lincoln3544103
Hancock347975
Leflore3376118
Sunflower318986
Tate302974
Pike300796
Scott293970
Alcorn291862
Itawamba290075
Yazoo289963
Tippah278965
Coahoma278668
Copiah278158
Simpson275879
Prentiss269858
Wayne254241
Marion252778
Leake252671
Covington248980
Grenada247578
Adams234678
George231845
Newton229952
Winston221777
Jasper213445
Tishomingo212365
Attala206569
Chickasaw201152
Holmes182370
Clay179251
Stone172429
Tallahatchie170939
Clarke169371
Calhoun157928
Smith152832
Yalobusha144836
Greene127733
Walthall124240
Noxubee122831
Montgomery122639
Perry121734
Lawrence120421
Carroll118425
Amite111734
Webster110631
Jefferson Davis101931
Tunica99023
Claiborne98429
Benton93524
Humphreys92827
Kemper90223
Quitman77214
Franklin76119
Choctaw69617
Jefferson62727
Wilkinson62426
Sharkey48917
Issaquena1676
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 494421

Reported Deaths: 9991
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson711451374
Mobile36184735
Madison32457458
Tuscaloosa24213412
Montgomery22636517
Shelby22020214
Baldwin19790284
Lee14980154
Morgan13693251
Calhoun13307287
Etowah13192320
Marshall11269209
Houston10102261
Elmore9408185
Limestone9376134
Cullman8903181
St. Clair8839224
Lauderdale8601212
DeKalb8465175
Talladega7552164
Walker6538258
Jackson6503103
Autauga630391
Blount6106127
Colbert5993119
Coffee5254102
Dale4648107
Russell405233
Franklin399478
Covington3970106
Chilton3883100
Escambia378172
Tallapoosa3596143
Clarke343753
Chambers3421111
Dallas3412141
Pike293372
Lawrence283684
Marion283495
Winston247368
Bibb245460
Geneva240270
Marengo236557
Pickens224555
Barbour212451
Hale210668
Fayette200957
Butler197566
Henry182641
Cherokee177139
Monroe166339
Randolph163840
Washington156635
Crenshaw145254
Clay145054
Macon142343
Cleburne137841
Lamar133133
Lowndes131251
Wilcox122525
Bullock117136
Conecuh106724
Perry105827
Sumter98632
Coosa89224
Greene88232
Choctaw55123
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