The Arizona senator, a former naval pilot who was held as a prisoner of war in Vietnam for almost six years, said Trump doesn’t owe him an apology, but needs to offer a mea culpa to all prisoners after “denigrating” their service.
“I think he may owe an apology to the families of those who have sacrificed in conflict and those who have undergone the prison experience in serving their country,” he said Monday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” which was simulcast on “Today.”
Trump took shots at McCain’s military history on Saturday.
“He’s a war hero because he was captured,” Trump said. “I like people that weren’t captured.”
McCain said, “The great honor of my life was to serve in the company of heroes.”
“I’m not a hero,” he said on the morning talk show. “But those who were my senior ranking officers … those that inspired us to do things we otherwise wouldn’t have been capable of doing — those are the people that I think he owes an apology to.”
McCain also took the high road, refusing to attack Trump for avoiding service in the Vietnam War with a series of deferments.
“For me to look back in anger at anyone is nonproductive,” he said. “And our country was divided in an almost unprecedented fashion during the Vietnam War, and when I came home I was shocked. So I’ve worked ever since to try to heal those wounds.”
Politicians on both sides of the spectrum, including Jeb Bush, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal, skewered Trump following his contentious comments and questioned whether he was fit to be commander-in-chief.
Trump called into “Today” on Monday morning to clarify his remarks, but refused to back down.
“I’m not a fan of John McCain,” he told Matt Lauer on the phone. “He’s done a horrible job for the vets.”
Trump also said that he actually referred to McCain as a war hero on Saturday.
“I said it at the news conference. I said it on the stage. The next sentence was, ‘He is a war hero.’ I said that, but they never want to play it,” Trump explained.
He shared the same sentiment in a USA Today op-ed published on Sunday, asserting that “the news media are also distorting my words.”