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: 147382

Reported Deaths: 3763
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto973199
Hinds9668197
Harrison6898109
Jackson6178119
Rankin5319100
Lee487695
Madison4666106
Forrest371386
Jones346788
Lauderdale3355144
Lafayette317549
Washington3122107
Lamar283449
Oktibbeha240861
Bolivar240184
Lowndes229763
Neshoba2177115
Panola215849
Marshall209650
Leflore201490
Pontotoc196128
Monroe191477
Sunflower190555
Lincoln186865
Warren172657
Tate165451
Union163925
Pike160658
Copiah159540
Yazoo152039
Scott150729
Coahoma148743
Itawamba148234
Pearl River146567
Alcorn146327
Simpson145153
Prentiss141230
Adams137949
Grenada137745
Leake131943
Holmes126561
Tippah123030
George122324
Covington119737
Winston119124
Wayne116223
Hancock115939
Marion111646
Attala109833
Tishomingo106542
Chickasaw104132
Newton103629
Tallahatchie96327
Clarke88853
Clay87127
Jasper81222
Walthall75328
Stone73114
Calhoun72913
Montgomery72125
Carroll70614
Lawrence70314
Yalobusha70027
Noxubee69717
Smith69616
Perry65426
Tunica59619
Greene58422
Claiborne57616
Jefferson Davis55017
Humphreys52918
Amite51814
Benton48717
Quitman4816
Webster42114
Kemper41918
Wilkinson38722
Jefferson34211
Franklin3265
Choctaw3117
Sharkey30717
Issaquena1124
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 239318

Reported Deaths: 3532
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson31391491
Mobile19562361
Tuscaloosa12813154
Madison12741146
Montgomery12198235
Shelby1000577
Baldwin847398
Lee764466
Morgan634348
Calhoun6112115
Marshall607954
Etowah606565
Houston517038
DeKalb474736
Cullman428038
Limestone413744
St. Clair409055
Elmore400762
Lauderdale393653
Walker3588108
Talladega343453
Jackson307624
Colbert301941
Blount285539
Autauga268641
Franklin247833
Coffee239715
Dale230354
Dallas224531
Russell22053
Chilton219638
Covington216833
Escambia197431
Chambers173749
Tallapoosa173391
Pike157514
Clarke156319
Marion136535
Winston129923
Lawrence124836
Geneva12028
Pickens119418
Marengo119124
Barbour117010
Bibb116217
Butler114441
Randolph100921
Cherokee100824
Hale94531
Clay90223
Washington90219
Fayette87316
Henry8496
Lowndes79129
Monroe78111
Cleburne75714
Macon72321
Crenshaw70730
Bullock69119
Conecuh68314
Perry6756
Lamar6508
Wilcox63118
Sumter57122
Choctaw41913
Greene41418
Coosa3374
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
42° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 42°
Columbus
Clear
41° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 41°
Oxford
Clear
41° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 37°
Starkville
Clear
37° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 37°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather