At the conservative Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, on Saturday, Donald Trump said Sen. John McCain is "not a war hero."
In an interview with GOP pollster Frank Luntz, Trump got a second chance to apologize for his comments calling illegal immigrants "rapists." He didn't take the bait.
"Don't you feel that you went too far in what you called Mexicans coming across the border?" Luntz asked.
"No, not at all," Trump said. "I'm so proud of the fact that I got dialogue started about illegal immigration. And people in the media, in all fairness, they were very rough on me that first week. And then many of them have now apologized to me. And almost everybody's apologized because it turned out that I was right."
Luntz pivoted to the anti-immigration rally Trump held in Phoenix last week, at which Trump called for Arizona treasurer Jeff DeWit to challenge McCain when he runs for reelection in 2016. Unfortunately for Trump, DeWit isn't interested in running.
In an interview with The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza, McCain said Trump's anti-immigration rally in Phoenix was "very bad."
"This performance with our friend out in Phoenix is very hurtful to me," McCain told Lizza. "Because what he did was he fired up the crazies."
At the event on Saturday, Trump said he took offense at McCain calling his followers "crazies."
"John McCain, a war hero—five-and-a-half years as a POW and you call him a dummy," Luntz said. "Is that appropriate in running for president?"
"He insulted me, and he insulted everybody in that room. And I said, somebody should run against John McCain, who has been, in my opinion, not so hot," Trump said Saturday, adding that he raised $1 million for McCain's presidential campaign. "I supported him. But he lost. So I've never liked him as much after that because I don't like losers."
"But he's a war hero!" Luntz interjected.
"He's not a war hero," Trump said. "He's a war hero—he's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured, OK? I hate to tell you. He's a war hero because he was captured, OK? And I believe—perhaps he's a war hero. But right now, he's said some very bad things about a lot of people."
Other Republican presidential candidates quickly jumped to McCain's defense:
Enough with the slanderous attacks. @SenJohnMcCain and all our veterans - particularly POWs have earned our respect and admiration.— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) July 18, 2015
.@SenJohnMcCain is an American hero, period. I’ll denounce any attack against his service and anyone else who wears the uniform. -SW— Scott Walker (@ScottWalker) July 18, 2015
John McCain is an American hero. Although we have some policy disagreements, I'm proud to serve alongside him.— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) July 18, 2015
America’s POWs deserve much better than to have their service questioned by the offensive rantings of Donald Trump— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) July 18, 2015
Texas Gov. Rick Perry called Trump's comments "reprehensible" and said they make him "unfit to be commander in chief."
"Donald Trump should apologize immediately for attacking Senator McCain and all veterans who have protected and served our country," Perry said in a statement. "As a veteran and an American, I respect Senator McCain because he volunteered to serve his country. I cannot say the same of Mr. Trump. His comments have reached a new low in American politics."
"John McCain is a friend of mine," Ohio Gov. John Kasich said. "I served with him in Congress and it's an insult to every veteran and POW/MIA to even try to debate his status as an American hero."
But after his appearance, Trump doubled down on his statement about McCain.
"I am not a fan of John McCain because he has done so little for our veterans and he should know better than anybody what the veterans need, especially in regards to the VA," Trump said in a statement. "He is yet another all-talk, no-action politician who spends too much time on television and not enough time doing his job and helping the vets."
"I have great respect for all those who serve in our military including those that weren't captured and are also heroes," Trump added.
This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.