Sen. John McCain said Monday Donald Trump doesn’t owe him an apology but that he should apologize to veterans for his comments about soldiers captured in war.
Asked on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" if Trump owes him an apology, McCain said: "No, I don't think so. But 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."
McCain said Trump's remarks were "totally inappropriate."
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"To denigrate their service is offensive to most of our veterans," McCain said. "The best thing to do is put it behind us and move forward."
Trump drew condemnation from his rivals and senior officials in the Republican party for saying on Saturday that McCain, who was held as a prisoner of war for more than five years during the Vietnam War and refused early release, was not "a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured."
Trump later acknowledged that McCain's sacrifice was heroic.
In a statement Saturday, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee said: "Senator McCain is an American hero because he served his country and sacrificed more than most can imagine. Period. There is no place in our party or our country for comments that disparage those who have served honorably."
Other Republicans who are running for president pounced on the comments. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush called Trump's words "slanderous," and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker told NBC News that Trump "needs to apologize." Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry has called on Trump to drop out of the presidential race.
On Monday, Trump blasted the media for distorting his remarks and sparred with Matt Lauer on NBC's "Today" show, acknowledging that McCain is a war hero. But he did not apologize.
"I'm not a fan of John McCain," Trump said via phone. "He's done a horrible job for the vets."
He insisted that in addition to blasting McCain's military record he did say during the talk he gave at the Family Leadership Summit over the weekend that McCain was a war hero.
"If you saw what I said and you saw the press conference afterwards...the media just has done such a false number as usual,'' Trump said. "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, and you don't want to play it. If you would've let it run just another three seconds, you would've said that I said very clearly, he is a war hero."
Trump went on to say Monday, "I do also respect greatly people that aren’t captured. Nobody talks about them. We talk about John McCain and he is a brave man, but we don’t talk about people that weren’t captured and that’s what I was trying to refer to.”