Spicer: Critics of Yemen raid do 'disservice' to dead SEAL

White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Wednesday said anyone criticizing the latest military raid in Yemen as something less than a success is doing a disservice to the Navy SEAL killed in the operation.

Spicer called the Yemen raid a “huge success” that would save American lives and prevent future attacks.

“The life of chief Ryan Owens was done in service to his country and we owe him and his family a great debt for the information we received during that raid,” Spicer said. “Any suggestion otherwise is a disservice to his courageous life and the actions he took. Full stop.”


The Yemen raid has come under criticism because of Owens’s death, and because of reported civilian casualties. News reports have suggested that the operation, which was initially planned under the Obama administration, was marred in a situation where everything that could go wrong did go wrong.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainJuan Williams: Obama's dire warnings about right-wing media Democrats' squabbling vindicates Biden non-campaign McSally, staff asked to break up maskless photo op inside Capitol MORE (R-Ariz.) has called it a “failure.”

Asked specifically if his message to McCain was that it was a disservice to Owens’s life to criticize the raid, Spicer replied: “That's my message to anyone who says that.” 

The White House has repeatedly characterized the mission as a success, noting that it was an intelligence-gathering mission that yielded valuable information. Fourteen al Qaeda suspects were killed in the raid.

But the raid led Yemen’s government to ban the United States from conducting special operations missions within its borders. 

In an interview with Buzzfeed, McCain said it was important to know what happened in the operation.

“We needed to know lessons learned. We need insurances that they will do everything they can to prevent such an occurrence again.”

In a statement following those comments, McCain modified his language. 

“Every military operation has objectives. And while many of the objectives of the recent raid in Yemen were met, I would not describe any operation that results in the loss of American life as a success,” McCain said in the statement. “Going forward, I am confident that our military will act on lessons learned from this operation to strengthen our fight against our terrorist enemies.” 

UPDATE: McCain has responded to Spicer in comments to NBC producer Frank Thorp. 

A former prisoner of war in Vietnam, McCain recalled a failed effort to rescue him.