Comment on 'dying' John McCain draws bipartisan condemnation

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John McCain at a staff meeting Thursday.

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. Sanders tells reporters she's 'not going to validate a leak out of an internal staff meeting one way or the other.' She did not mention McCain's name.

On Thursday, in her freaky comment dismissing McCain's opposition to the nomination of Gina Haspel as the new Central Intelligence Agency director, Kelly said that the senator's take on the issue "doesn't matter because he's dying anyway".

About 20 people were in the room; some gasped while a few laughed, according to some who were there, but no one challenged Ms. Sadler at the time.

"It doesn't matter, he's dying anyway", Sadler's comment went, according to reports. The White House said Thursday night in a statement: 'we respect Senator McCain's service to our nation and he and his family are in our prayers during this hard time.' Sanders says the White House has respect for all Americans.

McCain, 81, is battling brain cancer. She did not respond to a request for comment Thursday evening.

Vice President Joe Biden and Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., shake-hands and hug after their conversation at the McCain Institute for International Leadership‘s 2013 Sedona Forum on Friday, April 26, 2013 at the Enchantment Resort in Sedona, AZ.

Sadler reportedly called McCain's daughter, Meghan McCain, after making the remark.

"My father's legacy is going to be talked about for hundreds and hundreds of years", she added.

Mercedes Schlapp, the White House director of strategic communications, said Friday during a White House meeting that she stood by Sadler, Axios reported. "I like people that weren't captured".

Haspel faced grilling Wednesday by the Senate Intelligence Committee about her role overseeing some CIA operations after the September 11 attacks.

With support from her co-hosts, McCain continued to defend her father's character telling viewers it's because of him that she's always had something to believe in. "The fact is those methods can work, and they are effective, as former Vice President [Dick] Cheney said. She said something she shouldn't have said and apologized to the family right away", according to the same White House official. "That is what we try to put forward in everything we do both in word and in action", Sanders said during her briefing, highlighting President Trump's policies.

The New York Times reported last weekend that McCain's associates had informed the White House that they do not plan to give Trump a speaking role at his funeral, to be held at Washington National Cathedral, but that Vice President Mike Pence would be welcome to attend.