Donald Trump is not backing down from comments that have inflamed the Republican presidential race recently and some of his rivals are taking off the kid gloves.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, also a Republican presidential candidate, said Trump’s recent remarks dismissing Sen. John McCain’s reputation as a war hero, have demonstrated he is not fit to be president. He said the business mogul has insulted all prisoners of war, not just McCain, the 2008 GOP nominee defeated by Barack Obama.
"He's saying that somehow if you're captured in battle you're less worthy of honors," Rubio said on CNN’s “State of the Union”. "It's not just absurd, it's offensive. It's ridiculous. And I do think it's a disqualifier as commander in chief."
He also said as the campaign goes on and Trump commands attention, "it's required people to be more forceful in some of these offensive things that he is saying."
Rubio’s comments come a day after Trump, speaking at an Iowa candidate forum on Saturday, said McCain was merely taken captive after being shot down in Vietnam and "I like people who weren't captured."
He remained unapologetic of his comments on Sunday, claiming a strong record of supporting veterans and accused McCain of failing them in Washington.
“I will say what I want to say,” Trump said on ABC’s “This Week.” "I will do far more for veterans than John McCain has done for many, many years, with all talk no action. He's on television all the time, talking, talking. Nothing gets done."
A McCain spokesman has said the Arizona lawmaker would have no comment about Trump's remarks.
McCain spent more than five years as a prisoner of war, enduring torture. He stirred Trump's anger last week when he said Trump's comments about immigrants had "fired up the crazies" at a Phoenix rally.
Weeks ago, after Trump asserted that Mexican immigrants are rapists and drug dealers, Hispanic leaders were incensed not only about those remarks but about the slow and halting response from others seeking the GOP nomination. But the fallout from Trump's latest salvo has spread quickly and indicates that at least some of his competitors are losing their inhibitions about repudiating him.
Fellow Republican contender Rick Perry, one of the few veterans running for president, said Trump has demonstrated he has neither the character nor the temperament for the White House. "Over the top," the former Texas governor said of Trump on NBC's "Meet the Press." ''Really offensive."
Jeb Bush, whose wife is from Mexico, took sharp offense at Trump's earlier comments as others hedged. After Trump's comments about McCain, the former Florida governor tweeted, "Enough with the slanderous attacks."
But both Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, while agreeing McCain is a genuine hero, sidestepped when asked if they condemned Trump's remarks.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.