The remarks were made Thursday morning, one day after the Republican announced he opposed President Donald Trump‘s nominee for CIA director, Gina Haspel.
“It doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway,” Special assistant Kelly Sadler said during a closed-door meeting at the White House, according to The Hill.
The White House responded to the comments in a statement obtained by PEOPLE, saying, “We respect Senator McCain’s Service to our nation and he and his family are in our prayers during this difficult time.”
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McCain’s wife, Cindy, 63, tweeted at Sadler on Thursday, writing, “@kellysadler45 May I remind you my husband has a family, 7 children and 5 grandchildren.”
The couple’s daughter and The View co-host, Meghan McCain, retweeted her mother’s message. Earlier on Thursday, she also shared a black and white photo of herself with her father in which she sat on his lap as a little girl.
“#TBT – I’ve always wanted in on the action…. Love you so much Dad,” Meghan, 33, wrote, adding both a heart emoji and an American flag emoji.
McCain, 81, was diagnosed with brain cancer in July 2017 after undergoing a surgery to remove a blood clot above his eye last summer. He was hospitalized in December to treat side effects related to his cancer therapy.
More recently, McCain underwent surgery in April after contracting an intestinal infection. Meghan shared an update about her father’s health, tweeting, “My father @SenJohnMcCain is in stable condition – he continues to inspire me everyday with his intense grit and determination. Thank you to the doctors at Mayo Clinic in Phoenix and to everyone who is praying for him.”
Later on Thursday, FOX Business Network host Charles Payne interviewed Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney on McCain’s opposition to Haspel, which was based in part due to her belief that torture works as a questioning method.
McInerney responded on the show saying that despite Haspel being unable to use torture since “it’s not legal” the method worked on McCain himself.
“The fact is, is John McCain — it worked on John,” McInerney said, referencing McCain’s time as a prisoner of war.
“That’s why they call him ‘Songbird John.’ The fact is those methods can work, and they are effective, as former Vice President Cheney said,” he continued. “And if we have to use them to save a million American lives, we will do whatever we have to.”
Payne issued an apology on Twitter after the segment aired, writing, “This morning on a show I was hosting, a guest made a very false and derogatory remark about Senator John McCain.”
“At the time, I had the control room in my ear telling me to wrap the segment, and did not hear the comment,” he continued. “I regret I did not catch this remark, as it should have been challenged.”
“As a proud military veteran and a son of a Vietnam Vet these words neither reflect my or the network’s feeling about Senator McCain, or his remarkable service and sacrifice to this country.”
On Tuesday, Meghan asked the public to stop speaking about her father’s funeral.
“It’s just insensitive and it’s not appreciated at the moment,” she said on The View, resuming her co-hosting role on the talk show after a long weekend at home in Arizona with her father.
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“He’s doing really good. Just making jokes, talking, standing, doing, you know, doing a great recovery. He has a great team around him,” Meghan replied.
After being diagnosed in July, McCain told PEOPLE that his daughter marrying Ben Domenech on Nov. 21 at the family’s ranch in Cornville, Arizona, was a dream come true.
“The thing in life you want more than anything else is for your kids to be happy,” the senator told PEOPLE exclusively. “And I’m confident that she will be. It was really a wonderful day.”
In the wake of the diagnosis, Meghan and Domenech, 36, made the decision to get engaged and quickly plan a wedding.