Donald Trump on Monday came about as close as he likely ever will to saying “I’m sorry” for the firestorm he caused over the weekend when he said Sen. John McCain, a decorated prisoner of war, is not a war hero.
Appearing on Fox News Channel’s “The O’Reilly Factor,” Trump talked to host Bill O’Reilly by remote from Trump Tower in Manhattan.
“Certainly if there was a misunderstanding I would totally take that back,” Trump said after lots of urging from O’Reilly. “But hopefully I said it correctly and certainly shortly thereafter I said it correctly.”
Most of Trump’s Republican rivals and the Republican National Committee have condemned his comment in Iowa on Saturday. He initially said McCain is not a war hero, then added, “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
O’Reilly opened his show Monday with Trump and gave him the chance to apologize to McCain and other former POWs, who critics say also were insulted by Trump’s words.
Trump’s initial answer didn’t satisfy, O’Reilly, who accused Trump of dodging.
“You could have made the point that Mr. McCain’s characterization of your supporters as crazies is false and you could have just said what you said right now that the vets need better treatment and I, Donald Trump, am going to do that if elected. But then when asked about McCain you got into his war record, and I think you would admit here tonight that was a mistake because John McCain was a hero and you know it.”
Trump insisted he had said nothing different, pointing to journalist Sharyl Attkisson’s fact-check of a Washington Post story where she said he immediately changed course and called McCain a war hero.
“Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. You can backtrack into that,” O’Reilly said. “The fact of the matter is, we just played the clip where you said he was captured and I like people who aren’t captured. Now, you know that that wasn’t correct.”
O’Reilly went on to detail how McCain was on a bombing mission, was shot down, captured and tortured. When he was offered a chance at early release, McCain refused.
“Come on, Donald. You know the way that came off wasn’t correct,” O’Reilly said. “I’ve known you for a long time, and I want you to be honest. You do think John McCain is a hero. I know you do.”
“I do. I said it,” Trump said. “I actually said it four times, and I said it immediately when I went off stage because I was asked that question.”
“There is no debate about John McCain’s heroism. He is an American hero,” O’Reilly said, before talking to Trump at length about his problems with McCain over what Trump describes as his lack of support for veterans.
After discussing that and border issues, O’Reilly gave Trump 45 seconds to address McCain “man to man.”
“I have respect for Sen. McCain I used to like him a lot. I supported him. I raised a lot of money for his campaign against President Obama,” Trump said. “Certainly if there was a misunderstanding I would totally take that back. But hopefully I said it correctly and certainly shortly thereafter I said it correctly.”
Still, he said, McCain should apologize to the thousands of Trump supporters that he called “crazies.’ McCain has said he thinks of “crazies” as a term of affection.
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