John McCain

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White House Official Takes Heat For Remark That John McCain Is 'Dying'

May 10, 2018 - 8:57 pm

WASHINGTON (WCBS 880/CBS News/AP) -- A White House official made what some saw as an insensitive comment about ailing U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) at a staff meeting Thursday.

Kelly Sadler was discussing McCain's opposition to President Donald Trump's nominee for CIA director, Gina Haspel, when she allegedly claimed, “It doesn't matter” because “he's dying anyway.”

The remarks are according to a person in the room who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the closed-door meeting.

The White House did not dispute the remark, but said in a statement, “we respect Senator McCain's service to our nation and he and his family are in our prayers during this difficult time.”

The Hill newspaper first reported the comment.

Sadler is a special assistant to the president. She did not respond to a request for comment Thursday evening.

Also Thursday, a Fox Business Network host apologized to McCain’s family after a guest on his show made derisive comments about Sen. John McCain's time as a prisoner of war. 

Fox Business Network host Charles Payne apologized for failing to intervene when military analyst Thomas McInerney referred to McCain as "Songbird John."

McInerney made the comments in a conversation about the enhanced interrogation practices that took place in the post-9/11 era, in light Haspel’s nomination. Haspel testified about that dark chapter in CIA history in her confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill Wednesday, and pledged that such practices would not take place under her leadership. 

"Well she can't use it anymore because we have determined, the Congress, that it's not legal," McInerney said of the interrogation methods. "The fact is, John McCain, it worked on John. That's why they call him 'Songbird John.' The fact is, those methods can work and they're effective, as former Vice President (Dick) Cheney said. And if we have to use them to save a million American lives, we will do whatever we have to."

McCain was tortured during his years as a POW in Vietnam. McInerney is a retired U.S. Air Force Lt. General who also served in the Vietnam War.

Payne took to Twitter after the segment aired, expressing regret that he didn't intervene in the military analyst's comments. He said he didn't do so because the control room was talking to him at the time through his earpiece and he didn't catch the comment. 

"As a proud military veteran and son of a Vietnam vet, these words neither reflect my or the network's feelings about Senator McCain, or his remarkable service and sacrifice to this country," Payne wrote.

McCain is now home in Arizona battling brain cancer. U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said McCain is eating, in good humor and keeping tabs on world affairs from Arizona as he regains strength after recent complications.

During the presidential campaign, President Donald Trump blasted McCain for being captured.

"He's not a war hero," Trump said in Iowa in July 2015. "He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured."

At the time, pundits suggested it could be the end of his presidential bid, but Trump went on to win the White House 16 months later.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. CBS News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.)