White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer blasted Navy veteran Sen. John McCain for being disrespectful to the family of a fallen Navy SEAL by questioning the success of the mission that took his life.
On Tuesday, McCain released a statement criticizing the White House's characterization of the controversial Jan. 29 mission in Yemen, which resulted in the death of numerous civilians and Senior Chief Petty Officer William "Ryan" Owens. White House officials have publicly called the mission a success, but also a tragedy because of Owens' death.
"Every military operation has objectives," said McCain, a former prisoner of war. "And while many of the objectives of the recent raid in Yemen were met, I would not describe any operation that results in the loss of American life as a success.
"We must continue to take the fight to our enemies wherever they are while recognizing that risk is inherent in war. Going forward, I am confident that our military will act on lessons learned from this operation to strengthen our fight against our terrorist enemies."
Spicer took exception to those comments.
"I think anyone who would suggest that it is not does a disservice to the life of Chief Ryan Owens," Spicer said.
"Anyone who would suggest otherwise doesn't fully appreciate how successful that mission was, what the information that they were able to retrieve was, and how that will help prevent future terrorist attacks."
Spicer also said American lives "will be saved" because of information gathered in the raid, and that "future attacks will be prevented" because of the assault.
White House officials have said that the mission on an al-Qaida facility had been planned since last fall, and suggested the mission would have been approved by President Barack Obama if the timing had worked out differently. Obama officials have pushed back on that assertion.
Pentagon officials have acknowledged problems with the mission, including the crash of a military aircraft involved in the assault and the loss of the element of surprise. News reports have also suggested U.S. forces may have missed the target of the attack, the head of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.
Spicer pushed back on reports that Yemen government officials were furious following the raid and are blocking future similar U.S. missions, saying that the two governments are speaking and both committed to rooting out terrorism.
Owens family has repeatedly asked for privacy in the wake of his death. President Trump traveled to Delaware earlier this month to witness the return of his remains from overseas in a private ceremony. Follow @LeoShane
Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.