WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A top Republican has urged the White House to speak out against an aide who mocked Senator John McCain's brain cancer during an internal meeting, but stopped short of calling on U.S. President Donald Trump to apologize.
South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a close friend of McCain, told CBS's "Face the Nation" program in an interview to be aired on Sunday that he was not satisfied with the White House's response to the controversy surrounding Kelly Sadler, a communications aid.
"It's (a) pretty disgusting thing to say, if it was a joke, it was a terrible joke," Graham said. "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."
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Sadler dismissed Senator McCain's objection to Trump's nominee to be CIA director, Gina Haspel, by saying it "doesn't matter, he's dying anyway," a source familiar with the closed White House meeting told Reuters on Thursday.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders on Friday refused to confirm or deny what Sadler had said.
"And I think most Americans would like to see the Trump administration do better in situations like this," said Graham. "It doesn't hurt you at all to do the right thing and to be big."McCain, 81, has been a frequent critic of Trump. In 2015, Trump denigrated the former Navy flier's military service. "He's not a war hero," Trump said. "He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured."
Asked if Trump himself should apologize for Sadler's comments, Graham said, "I'll leave that up to him, but if something happened like that in my office - somebody in my office said ... such a thing about somebody, I would apologize on behalf of the office."
(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Marguerita Choy)