Sen. Joni Ernst Calls For Veterans Affairs Secretary’s Resignation After Disney Comment

Michael Bonfigli, the Christian Science Monitor
Michael Bonfigli/Christian Science Monitor

Senator Joni Ernst is demanding that Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald resign, after he compared wait times at VA hospitals to the lines at Disneyland.

“Secretary McDonald’s dishonorable remarks yesterday make clear that he fails to take seriously the need for timely and quality care for our veterans,” the Iowa Republican said in a statement. “He blatantly dismissed the heart ache and pain that our veterans face while awaiting basic care, and illustrated his compete disregard for the incredibly serious issues facing the VA.”

Ernst cited ongoing corruption within the VA, accusing McDonald of failing to properly reform the system.

“Secretary McDonald is at the helm, and instead of taking charge to clear out bad actors, he has stood idly by,” she said.

McDonald made his comments during a breakfast with reporters at the Christian Scientist Monitor on Monday in Washington D.C.

“When you go to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line or what’s important?” he said. “What’s important is: What’s your satisfaction with the experience.”

McDonald has refused to apologize, however he tried to clarify his remarks to MSNBCs Andrea Mitchell.

“Look, we get it. Wait times are important. There’s no question wait times are important, but they aren’t the only measure of the veteran experience,” McDonald said. “If I was misunderstood or if I said the wrong thing, I’m glad I have the opportunity to correct it.”

Ernst is the first female combat veteran to serve in the U.S. Senate. She also condemned McDonald’s comments yesterday.

“Waiting to be seen at the VA for something as serious as life threatening illnesses simply cannot be compared to waiting in line to visit the Magic Kingdom. I’m absolutely appalled by Secretary McDonalds’ callous and completely out of touch comparison of the long VA wait times to lines at Disneyland.”

Speaker Paul Ryan also condemned McDonald’s remarks today, saying that they indicated “cultural indifference” at the VA.

“We were dumbfounded,” Ryan said, according to the Huffington Post. “This is not make-believe. This is not Disneyland or Wonderland, for that matter.”