WASHINGTON — Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called on Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to apologize to military families Monday during his first public comments since the real estate mogul mocked his military record in a campaign event Saturday.
"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 on MSNBC's Morning Joe, stressing that prisoners of war serve honorably. "Somehow to denigrate that in any way, their service, I think is offensive to most of our veterans."
The Arizona senator called Trump's comments "totally inappropriate" but dismissed questions over whether Trump owes him a personal apology, instead placing the emphasis on other veterans who have been captured during conflict. He added it was "the great honor of my life to serve in the company of heroes."
Trump, who has risen to the top of the GOP field according to several national polls, ignited a firestorm after he criticized McCain. "He's not a war hero," Trump said Saturday in Iowa, igniting a swift backlash from Democrats and Republicans alike. "He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured."
In a contentious press gaggle after the event, Trump doubled down on his comments and told reporters that the former presidential candidate had failed to lead on veterans' issues.
Trump's fellow GOP presidential candidates nearly unanimously condemned his comments, including former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who said his comments disqualified him from running for the White House.
McCain, a naval aviator, was shot down during the Vietnam War and held prisoner for more than five years in Hanoi.