Sarah Huckabee Sanders has called John McCain an “American war hero” and suggested she would “absolutely” attend John McCain’s funeral amid controversy surrounding Donald Trump’s response to the senator’s death.
The White House press secretary said Mr McCain’s passing was a “great loss” for the US when a TMZ reporter approached her as she was leaving an airport. When asked whether she would attend the funeral – and considering her father former Governor Mike Huckabee’s esteem for Mr McCain – Ms Huckabee Sanders said “absolutely”.
“Absolutely, he was an American hero and a great loss for our country,” she said.
Mr McCain died on Saturday at age 81 following treatment for brain cancer. Politicians, public figures and other people around the world have mourned the loss of the Arizona senator and Navy veteran who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
Ms Huckabee Sanders’ praise for Mr McCain came amid the swift firestorm caused by her own boss who has been criticised for his notably abrupt statements on the senator’s death. Mr Trump and Mr McCain had a tense relationship for years.
After Mr McCain died, Mr Trump reportedly initially chose to write a statement on his death on Twitter, instead of signing off on an official White House statement lauding the senator as a hero.
Mr Trump later released an official White House statement on Monday, sharing the “respect” he has for Mr McCain despite their differences in policies and politics. In his remarks on Twitter, he did not mention the senator’s service to the US or military.
The US president has also faced public backlash after the White House American flag that had been lowered to half-staff to honour Mr McCain, was returned to full-staff less than 48 hours after he died. Mr Trump later issued a proclamation to have the flag lowered back to half-staff on Monday afternoon. The move was initially criticised as a break from tradition; the US flag code states that flags be lowered “on the day of death and the following day for a Member of Congress".
Former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush are reportedly expected to speak at Mr McCain’s funeral. It is unclear whether Mr Trump will attend.
Over the weekend, Ms Huckabee Sanders called Mr McCain a “great American” on Twitter. Other officials on both sides of the aisle have likewise shared their public praise for the senator.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies