Donald Trump expressed no remorse Wednesday for saying last summer that Sen. John McCain was “not a war hero,” despite being captured in Vietnam and tortured as a prisoner of war.
The presumptive GOP presidential nominee’s comments came just days after McCain reiterated his call for Trump to take back his comments about other captured members of the military.
“What he said about me, John McCain, that’s fine. I don’t require any repair of that,” McCain, who recently said he would support Trump as the nominee, told CNN’s Manu Raju in an interview.
“But when he said, ‘I don’t like people who were captured,’ then there’s a great body — there’s a body of American heroes that I would — that I would like to see him retract that statement, not about me, but about the others,” McCain added.
McCain, a Naval aviator, was shot down in 1967 over North Vietnam and fractured both arms and legs after being ejected from his aircraft. He was repeatedly tortured during his stay in the notorious “Hanoi Hilton” — and refused early release when the North Vietnamese learned his father was a Navy admiral — until he finally returned home in 1973 following the Paris Peace Accords.
Asked about McCain’s comments on the radio show “Imus in the Morning,” the audio of which was clipped by BuzzFeed, Trump said, “Well, I’ve actually done that, Don.”
Trump, as he’s done since the controversy last year, added that he considers McCain a hero.
“You know frankly, I like John McCain, and John McCain is a hero,” he said. “Also, heroes are people that are, you know, whether they get caught or don’t get caught — they’re all heroes as far as I’m concerned. And that’s the way it should be.”
Pressed further on whether he regrets his initial comments, Trump said many people agreed with what he said and cited an increase in his poll numbers.
“I don’t, you know — I like not to regret anything,” Trump said. “You do things and you say things. And what I said, frankly, is what I said. And you know some people like what I said, if you want to know the truth. Many people that like what I said. You know after I said that, my poll numbers went up seven points.”
Radio host Don Imus said that someone who received multiple deferments, such as Trump, shouldn’t be criticizing a veteran.
“I understand that. Well, I was going to college, I had student deferments. I also got a great lottery number,” Trump said, before pointing to his work in building the Vietnam Memorial in New York.
“I did that because I really wanted to do something … Frankly, I’m very, you know, I feel fine about it. The Vietnam War was a war that was a mistake. It was a big, big mistake. A horrible mistake. Just like Iraq was a mistake,” he said.
Earlier in the week, Republican South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds told CNN that an apology from Trump to McCain would be a significant help in unifying a fractured Republican Party.
“I think that would go a long way towards bringing some people in,” Rounds said.