VA chief 'deeply' regrets if Disney comment offended vets

VA chief 'deeply' regrets if Disney comment offended vets
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Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald moved closer to apologizing for comparing wait times at VA clinics to lines at Disney parks, saying Tuesday he "deeply" regrets if it offended veterans. 
 
"If my comments Monday led any veterans to believe that I, or the dedicated workforce I am privileged to lead, don't take that noble mission seriously, I deeply regret that," McDonald said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. "Nothing could be further from the truth."
 
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He added that it "was never my intention to suggest that I don't take our mission of serving veterans very seriously."
 
After his initial remarks sparked backlash, the secretary further angered lawmakers earlier Tuesday when he refused to apologize for the controversial remark.
  
During an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, McDonald repeatedly defended his efforts to improve conditions at VA hospitals, saying that wait times should not be the sole criteria on which the facilities are judged. 
 
“Look, we get it. Wait times are important. There’s no question wait times are important,” he said. “But there’s more to the veteran experience than just wait times.”
 
He also said he welcomed the opportunity to "correct" the perceptions of those who "misunderstood" his comment.
 
 
"Mr. Secretary: No one misunderstood. What you said was wrong. Period," Ryan tweeted.
 
The incident is the latest headache for the VA, which is still reeling from a 2014 scandal in which it was revealed that officials covered up long waits for veterans seeking healthcare. Several veterans died waiting for medical treatment. 
 
“When you go to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line?" McDonald asked during a breakfast Monday with reporters. "What's important is what's your satisfaction with the experience."
 
Two Republican senators, David VitterDavid Bruce VitterThe biggest political upsets of the decade Red-state governor races put both parties on edge Louisiana Republicans score big legislative wins MORE (La.) and Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntSenate GOP mulls speeding up Trump impeachment trial Biden calls for revoking key online legal protection GOP threatens to weaponize impeachment witnesses amid standoff MORE (Mo.), have called on McDonnell to resign. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) on Monday called the secretary’s remarks “unbelievably tone-deaf and hurtful.” And her Republican opponent in Illinois's Senate race, incumbent Mark KirkMark Steven KirkWhy Republicans are afraid to call a key witness in the impeachment inquiry Ex-Rep. Duffy to join lobbying firm BGR Bottom Line MORE, said McDonald should be "embarrassed" for his remarks.
 
 
"He is a good man. He's doing his best under very, very difficult circumstances. So, I support Secretary McDonald all the way," Reid told reporters Tuesday when asked whether McDonald should resign.