Story highlights

Senator had said politics behind recent leaks about U.S. intelligence operations

White House called his remarks "grossly irresponsible"

John Boehner says White House should act to prevent further leaks

Washington CNN  — 

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday dismissed Sen. John McCain’s accusation that the recent spate of leaks about U.S. intelligence operations was politically motivated, calling the claim a “really a sad statement.”

After the White House characterized McCain’s remarks as “grossly irresponsible” on Wednesday, the Arizona Republican stood his ground, releasing a tough statement that repeated his assertion.

“These leaks clearly were not done in the interest of national security or to reveal corrupt or illegal actions about which the public has a right to know, as in the case of legitimate whistle-blowers,” McCain said. “It is difficult to escape the conclusion that these recent leaks of highly classified information, all of which have the effect of making the president look strong and decisive on national security in the middle of his re-election campaign, have a deeper political motivation.”

While Pelosi, who once served as the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said leaks could undermine national security, she pushed back firmly at McCain’s comment about the motivations.

“For anybody to say … that an intelligence leak (from either party) is politically motivated is really, really a sad statement,” the California Democrat said at her weekly news conference.

House Speaker John Boehner, during his own weekly news conference, distanced himself from McCain’s contention that the leaks were designed to help the president’s image, saying, “I’m not going to apply motives to this.”

But Boehner did suggest that it was up to the White House to stop any further leaks. He said administration officials should take the advice of former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who reportedly went to the White House after information about the raid killing Osama bin Laden began coming out.

“He went over the White House and used some colorful language to stop any more leaks,” Boehner said.