Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s criticism Saturday of fellow party member and Arizona Sen. John McCain for being “captured” during the Vietnam War brought sharp rebuke from others in the GOP field.
“He was a war hero because he was captured,” Trump said at the Family Leadership Summit, in Ames, Iowa. “I like people who weren’t captured.”
Most of the 14 other GOP candidates, including some at the summit, immediately criticized Trump’s remarks.
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry tweeted that McCain “is an American hero” and that all U.S. prisoners of war “deserve our nation's highest debt of gratitude” and that Trump’s comments are “disgraceful.”
He also called on Trump to apologize and said the comments make him “unfit” to become commander in chief and that he should quit the race.
Trump made his remarks after the conference moderator, Republican pollster Frank Luntz, described McCain as "a war hero" and Trump was pressed on his recent description of McCain as "a dummy."
McCain spent more than five years as a prisoner of war after his plane was shot down during combat in Vietnam.
McCain and Trump have been feuding for days. The discord apparently follows a recent joint event in Phoenix, Ariz., that swelled to 1,500 people when Trump decided to attend and talk about illegal immigration.
McCain referred to the attendees as “crazies.”
Trump when announcing his candidacy said some Mexicans who cross the border illegally come with problems and that some are “rapists.”
He said McCain calling the attendees at the Arizona event crazies was “disrespectful.”
“These were not crazies," Trump said. “These were great American citizens.”
Trump earlier complained about having financially backed McCain’s failed 2008 presidential bid and said that McCain graduated last in his class at the U.S. Naval Academy.
More recently, he has accused McCain of failing veterans by not improving the trouble Department of Veterans Affairs, the agency that provides their health care.
Trump said in a series of tweets after the event: “I will make this right for our great Vets!” and “John McCain has failed miserably to fix the situation and to make it possible for veterans to successfully manage their lives.”
Among the other 2016 GOP presidential candidates to respond was Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
“John McCain is an American hero,” he said on Twitter. “I have nothing but respect for his service to our country.”
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a GOP candidate who has been at or near the top of most polls since the start of the election cycle, said on Twitter: “Enough with the slanderous attacks. @SenJohnMcCain and all our veterans -- particularly POWs have earned our respect and admiration.”
Candidate and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said on Twitter: “Senator John McCain is an American hero. Period. Stop.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.