Washington CNN —  

Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald apologized Tuesday for comparing long waits at VA hospitals to the lines at Disney amusement parks, amid calls from top Republicans for him to resign because of the remark.

“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. Nothing could be further from the truth,” McDonald said in a statement. “It was never my intention to suggest that I don’t take our mission of serving veterans very seriously.”

McDonald compared the long waits for veterans seeking care to Disney lines Monday, at a breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor.

“When you go to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line? Or what’s important?” McDonald told reporters. “What’s important is what’s your satisfaction with the experience.”

The comment spurred an immediate firestorm Monday. Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump blasted McDonald in a tweet and House Speaker Paul Ryan tweeted that the problem is not “make-believe.”

And Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican and top lawmaker, called for McDonald’s resignation over the comment.

“I call on him to resign because it’s clear he cannot prioritize getting our veterans the health care they deserve and have earned in a timely manner. Dismissing wait times when veterans can often wait months for an appointment is negligent and a clear sign that new leadership is needed at the VA,” Blunt said.