President Barack Obama’s Secretary of Veterans Affairs expressed “regret” for comparing VA hospital wait times to the lines at Disneyland — 30 hours after making the comments during a breakfast with reporters in Washington D.C.
“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,” he said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Republicans immediately condemned his statement but McDonald at first refused to apologize, which only fueled the controversy.
In response, Senator Joni Ernst and Sen. Roy Blunt called for McDonald’s resignation.
A Democrat, Rep. Tammy Duckworth and Iraq war veteran who lost both of her legs in Iraq also condemned the statements.
“Comparing abhorrent wait times to a trip to Disneyland is unbelievably tone-deaf and hurtful to American heroes desperately in need of care,” Duckworth said in a statement.
But McDonald was defensive of his two years as VA Secretary, replacing Obama’s first appointee who resigned as a result of officials falsifying wait times.
“It was never my intention to suggest that I don’t take our mission of serving Veterans very seriously,” McDonald said in his statement. “In fact, improving access to care is my number one priority and the priority I have set for the entire department.”