Schwarzenegger warns against 'falling toward our lowest instincts' in response to Trump aide's McCain joke
© Greg Nash

Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) urged Americans against "falling toward our lowest instincts" Saturday in response to a White House aide mocking Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainEsper faces tough questions on dismissal of aircraft carrier's commander Democratic super PAC targets McSally over coronavirus response GOP senator suspending campaign fundraising, donating paycheck amid coronavirus pandemic MORE's (R-Ariz.) terminal cancer diagnosis.

The actor and former GOP politician tweeted Saturday that McCain "is a hero who has given his entire life in service to his country," adding that Americans should reach for their "better angels."

"I hope this horrible 'joke' from someone in the White House is a wake-up call to all Americans to think about how we speak to each other about our politics," he wrote in an attached statement.

"We can be strong without being cruel; tough without being mean spirited," Schwarzenegger said.

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Schwarzenegger joined a chorus of anger from both sides of the aisle this week after The Hill reported that White House aide Kelly Sadler quipped to communications staffers during a closed-door meeting that McCain's rejection of President TrumpDonald John TrumpOvernight Health Care: US hits 10,000 coronavirus deaths | Trump touts 'friendly' talk with Biden on response | Trump dismisses report on hospital shortages as 'just wrong' | Cuomo sees possible signs of curve flattening in NY We need to be 'One America,' the polling says — and the politicians should listen Barr tells prosecutors to consider coronavirus risk when determining bail: report MORE's CIA pick Gina Haspel "doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway.”

The White House did not dispute or confirm the remarks in a statement to The Hill, or in a press briefing Friday with press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

“We respect Senator McCain’s service to our nation and he and his family are in our prayers during this difficult time,” the White House said in a statement to The Hill.

Sanders refused to address the issue at a Friday briefing amid numerous calls for Sadler to publicly apologize and to be fired, instead calling the issue a staff matter.

“I'm not going to validate a leak, one way or another, out of an internal staff meeting," Sanders said.