WASHINGTON – The White House refused on Friday to renounce or apologize for a counselor whose joke at a meeting made Senator John McCain irrelevant because he was about to die, viral, angry relatives, friends and Admirers of the Ailing Legislature  Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House spokeswoman, said she would not comment on an indoor meeting where the joke was made. And she offered no words of regret at the comment or sympathy for Mr. McCain, a Republican senator and dual presidential candidate fighting brain cancer at his ranch in Arizona.
"I will not confirm a leak Anyway, from an internal staff meeting," Sanders said. When asked why she did not simply apologize to Mr. McCain, she said, "I'm not going to move back and forth because people want to create problems with leaked employee meetings."
The counselor, Kelly Sadler, a special assistant to the president, Spoke on Thursday, just three days after Melania Trump unveiled a campaign called "Be Best" (19459006), encouraging children to put kindness first in their lives. Contrary to what Sanders said, this did not happen during an internal staff meeting in the White House, but during a meeting with staff members of the congressional communications staff.
The conversation turned against Mr. McCain's opposition to Mr. Trump's candidate for C.I.A. Director because of her previous links to an interrogation program that used torture on terrorist suspects. "It does not matter," said Mrs. Sadler, "He dies anyway."
About 20 people were in the room; Some, while a few laughed, gasped for some who were there, but nobody challenged Mrs. Sadler at the time. Some colleagues later said they were unhappy, she made the comment, and the White House issued a written statement on Thursday expressing respect for Mr. McCain. But Ms. Sanders confirmed that Ms. Sadler was still at work.
Sadler works at the White House Communications office focusing on illegal immigration. According to an online biography, she graduated from Hamilton College in 2002 with a degree in Chinese and International Relations, and later earned a Master's degree in Broadcast Journalism from Northwestern University. She worked as a management consultant and then as a reporter for Bloomberg and later The Washington Times.
Mr. McCain's family expressed surprise and indignation after the remark became known. "May I remind you that my husband has a family, 7 children, and 5 grandchildren," wrote his wife Cindy McCain to Ms. Sadler on Twitter.
Meghan McCain, the Senator's daughter, continued to respond to "The View," the ABC television show where she is hostess. "I do not understand what environment you work in, where that would be acceptable, and then you can come to work the next day and have another job," she said. Sadler has not made public statements, but has called on Meghan McCain to apologize
. Sadler's comment came the same day that a retired Luftwaffe three-star general went on Fox Business Network to mock Mr. McCain's prisoner of war behavior. Mr. McCain was brutally and repeatedly beaten, but refused to be released early unless other prisoners were released. Retired General Thomas G. McInerney rejected McCain's rejection of the torture.
"The fact is, John McCain worked on John," he said. "That's why they call him & # 39; Songbird John & # 39 ;."
That also drew back a reprimand from Cindy McCain. "Please select your guest smarter" She wrote to Fox Business and the host, Charles V. Payne, on Twitter
Mr. Payne went back on the program later that day to apologize for what he called "false and derogatory" remarks, and said he did not hear them because a producer was talking in his ear.
"If I had heard something He said the right way, I would have pushed back," Payne said. "I did not mess it up." As a military veteran himself, Mr. Payne added, "These objectionable comments do not reflect how I feel or how this network feels about Senator McCain."
Fox said Friday that it ties in with Mr McInerney and would not book him as a commentator anymore.
Maggie Haberman contributed reports.
Follow Peter Baker on Twitter: @peterbakernyt.