WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 27: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) holds a news conference with fellow GOP senators to say they would not support a
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 27: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) holds a news conference with fellow GOP senators to say they would not support a 'Skinny Repeal' of health care at the U.S. Capitol July 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. The Republican senators said they would not support any legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare unless it was guaranteed to go to conference with the House of Representatives. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 1: Cindy McCain looks on as a joint military service casket team carries the casket of the late Senator John McCain following his funeral service at the Washington National Cathedral, September 1, 2018 in Washington, DC. Former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush delivered eulogies for McCain in front of the 2,500 invited guests. McCain will be buried on Sunday at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
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Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. will brief the media on Tuesday, Aug. 28, at 10 a.m. EDT, in the Pentagon Briefing Room (2E973).  DAILY SCHEDULE: Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. brief the media at 10 a.m. EDT in the Pentagon Briefing Room (2E973). Both U.S. and foreign journalists without a Pentagon building pass must be pre-registered in the new Pentagon Visitor Management System to attend this briefing; plan on being escorted from the River Entrance Pedestrian Bridge or the Pentagon Metro Entrance Facility only. Please arrive no later than 45 minutes before the briefing; have proof of affiliation and photo identification. Please call 703-697-5131 for any questions and escort into the building. The briefing will also be streamed live on www.defense.gov/live.  Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis hosts an enhanced honor cordon welcoming Minister of Defense Ryamizard Ryacudu of Indonesia, to the Pentagon at 2:30 p.m. EDT on the steps of the River Entrance. All journalists desiring to cover the cordon must obtain a wristband from security screening. Journalists without a Pentagon facility access card must go through security screening at the base of the River Entrance Pedestrian Bridge, and will be escorted to the cordon from there. Security screening will begin at approximately 1:45 p.m. EDT; have proof of affiliation and two forms of photo identification. Journalists with a Pentagon facility access card, and whom have entered the building prior to 1:30 p.m. EDT, may go through security screening at the River Entrance to obtain their wristband. All journalists wishing to cover the honor cordon, including those with a Pentagon facility access card, must be in place no later than 2:15 p.m. EDT. Once security screening has been initiated at the base of the bridge, all journalists entering the building via the bridge for any reason, including those with a Pen
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(CNN) —  

White House aide Kelly Sadler responded to Sen. John McCain’s opposition to President Donald Trump’s pick for CIA director by saying Thursday morning that “he’s dying anyway,” a White House official told CNN.

The official said Sadler, who is in charge of surrogate communications, meant it as a joke, “but it fell flat.”

McCain announced last year that he had been diagnosed with brain cancer, and he issued a statement Wednesday calling on his fellow senators to oppose Gina Haspel, Trump’s nominee for CIA director, whose ties to the use of interrogation methods widely considered torture have drawn significant criticism.

Asked about Sadler’s comment, a White House official said, “We respect Senator McCain’s service to our nation, and he and his family are in our prayers during this difficult time.”

Sadler called the senator’s daughter Meghan McCain on Thursday to apologize for the remark, a source close to the situation told CNN, although it’s unclear what her response was.

The Hill first reported on Sadler’s remark.

McCain called Haspel a “patriot” in his statement in Wednesday but referenced her record and testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee to implore the Senate to vote down her nomination.

“Ms. Haspel’s role in overseeing the use of torture by Americans is disturbing,” McCain’s statement read. “Her refusal to acknowledge torture’s immorality is disqualifying. I believe the Senate should exercise its duty of advice and consent and reject this nomination.”

Haspel said in a statement Thursday evening that she has the “utmost respect” for McCain.

“I have the utmost respect for Senator McCain, and I appreciate the thoughtfulness with which he has approached this nomination process.”

South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a close friend of John McCain, said of the White House aide’s comment, “Ms. Sadler, may I remind you that John McCain has a lot of friends in the United States Senate on both sides of the aisle. Nobody is laughing in the Senate.”

Sadler’s remark about the Arizona Republican echoed Trump’s remark at the outset of his campaign for president, when he mocked McCain’s time as a prisoner of war by saying, “I like people that weren’t captured.”

The divide between the two came up again last summer, when McCain traveled to Washington as the Senate considered a repeal of Obamacare and offered a thumbs down to help sink the effort.

CNN’s Sophie Tatum, Kevin Liptak, Jim Sciutto, Katilan Collins and Dana Bash contributed to this report.