White House scraps daily internal communications meeting after McCain remarks
The White House communications team has scrapped its large daily meeting in response to the leak of a derisive comment about Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) cancer diagnosis made at one of the gatherings, The Hill has confirmed.
In an effort to stem leaks, the meeting of roughly two dozen staffers has been replaced by a gathering of a smaller group of communications aides who meet to discuss strategy.
“Periodically, we streamline our operations to better communicate the president’s message,” White House spokesperson Lindsay Walters said in an email.
The New York Times first reported the change. The White House press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The decision comes days after The Hill first reported that special assistant Kelly Sadler told colleagues McCain’s opposition to CIA director nominee Gina Haspel “doesn’t matter” because “he’s dying anyway.”
Sadler’s remark sparked widespread outrage in Washington, which was fueled further by the White House’s refusal to publicly apologize for the comments.
The controversy entered its eighth day on Thursday, when Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) introduced legislation that would instruct the House to call on the White House to formally apologize for Sadler’s comments.
The White House aide phoned members of McCain’s family to offer an apology but she has not spoken publicly about her comments.
McCain was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer last July and has been at home in Arizona while receiving treatment.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and other press and communications aides have focused more on the leak of Sadler’s comments, rather than the remarks themselves.
Raj Shah, Sanders’s deputy, told reporters Monday the Sadler matter would be “dealt with internally.”
Sanders scolded stafffers at a closed-door meeting last week about leaking, according to Axios, and publicly said that people who reveal private information to the press should be fired.
“We fired people over leaking before — I’ve personally fired people over leaking before — and we certainly would be very willing to do so again,” Sanders said Wednesday on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends.”
Sadler has kept her job, which includes coordinating with surrogates and sending talking points on immigration to the news media.
On Thursday, she sent her first immigration emails to the press since the incident.
Scott Wong contributed.
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