WASHINGTON — The White House communications office has canceled a large daily morning meeting in response to the leak of a joke about Senator John McCain being close to death that a staff member made at one of those meetings, two people familiar with the matter confirmed Thursday.
The meeting, which brought together roughly 30 communications staff members from the West Wing, did not take place Thursday or the two days prior. Instead, a smaller group of communications team members has met, one person briefed on the matter said.
Lindsay Walters, a deputy White House press secretary, said that she would not address “internal matters” when asked to confirm that the communications team’s meetings had been changed in light of the comments about Mr. McCain made last week by Kelly Sadler, a communications aide, during a staff meeting.
Ms. Sadler’s comment that the Arizona senator was irrelevant because he would soon die went viral, outraging relatives, friends and admirers of the ailing lawmaker. Mr. McCain, a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War, has a malignant brain tumor and has been in treatment for several months.
Neither Ms. Sadler nor the White House have made a public apology for the remark, and the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, has said only that the matter would be handled internally. She admonished her staff for leaking the Sadler remark at a subsequent meeting, the details of which were leaked to the website Axios.
The White House counselor, Kellyanne Conway, has said President Trump wants to make personnel changes to grapple with what he regards as a constant stream of undermining leaks.