Two weeks ago, the White House was in an uproar after comedian Michelle Wolf tore into Donald Trump’s administration at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
Now, with the tables apparently turned, the White House is refusing to apologize for a top official who joked that Senator John McCain’s opinion was not important because he “would be dead soon.” McCain has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.
As the New York Times noted, the White House declined to apologize for the remark, which reportedly came from aide Kelly Sadler during an internal meeting. When pressed about the joke, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to renounce the remark or even acknowledge that it happened.
“I’m not going to validate a leak one way or the other out of an internal staff meeting,” Sanders said.
After being pressed on why the White House would not apologize to John McCain, Sanders again pushed back.
“I’m not going to get into a back and forth because, you know, people want to create issues of leaked staff meetings,” she said.
Other reporters questioned Sanders about whether Donald Trump, who had previously said McCain was “not a war hero” and mocked him for being captured by the North Vietnamese, set a tone of disrespect toward the Arizona senator.
Sanders refused to acknowledge the question directly.
“We have a respect for all Americans and that is what we try to put forward in everything we do, both in word and in action, focusing on doing things that help every American in this country, every single day,” Sanders said.
But just two weeks before the joke about John McCain dying, White House officials had a very different tone when it came to comedian Michelle Wolf. At the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Wolf mocked Trump’s wealth and accused White House officials of lying to the American people. Trump took to Twitter to attack Wolf after the appearance and a number of officials — both present and former — attacked her as well. Former Press Secretary Sean Spicer called it a “disgrace,” and White House Strategic Communication Director Mercedes Schlapp said she walked out of the event in disgust.
The White House aide’s joke about John McCain dying has drawn a strong reaction from both sides of the aisle, including McCain’s own family. Many have called on the White House to apologize for the remark and to fire Sadler, but the Trump administration has shown no signs of remorse for the joke.