Asked by Bill O’Reilly what he would like to say directly to Sen. John McCain, Donald Trump avoided any mention of the controversy triggered by his “war hero” remarks and instead focused on the plight of veterans.
“I have respect for Senator McCain,” Trump told O’Reilly on “The O’Reilly Factor” Monday night. “I used to like him a lot. I supported him…but I would love to see him do a much better job taking care of the veterans.”
Earlier Monday, John McCain fired back at Trump over his remarks about the Vietnam veteran's time in captivity, saying the presidential candidate doesn't need to apologize to him but owes an apology to the families of those who sacrificed in war.
The Republican Arizona senator said the best thing to do is "move forward" while also calling Trump's remarks "offensive to veterans."
McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, weighed in after Trump rocked the Republican presidential primary race with his seemingly offhand but pointed dig at the longtime Arizona senator and former presidential candidate. On Saturday, Trump said McCain, a former Navy fighter pilot who spent five-and-a-half years as a prisoner during the Vietnam War, was a war hero -- but said that's "because he was captured."
"I like people who weren't captured," he said.
The comment touched off a firestorm, with Republicans leaping to McCain's defense and suggesting Trump had, this time, gone too far.
Yet Trump would not back down. Speaking with NBC's "Today" Show Monday, Trump took issue with the media's reporting on his comments, saying he had said "four times" that he respected those captured in war.
In an opinion piece published Monday in USA Today, Trump said McCain had abandoned the nation's veterans and made America less secure through his votes in Congress.
The real estate executive also lashed out at fellow GOP presidential aspirants who have criticized his remarks, calling them "failed politicians." Trump said he did not need "to be lectured by any of them."
"The reality is that John McCain the politician has made America less safe, sent our brave soldiers into wrong-headed foreign adventures, covered up for President (Barack) Obama with the VA scandal and has spent most of his time in the Senate pushing amnesty," Trump wrote. "He would rather protect the Iraqi border than Arizona's."
McCain, speaking Monday with MSNBC, said it was "totally inappropriate for Mr. Trump to say he doesn't like to be with people who are captured."
"I think the point here is that there are so many men and women who served and sacrificed -- and happened to be held prisoner -- and to denigrate in any way that service, I think, is offensive to veterans."
"The best thing to do is put it behind us and move forward," McCain said.
Most of the 14 other GOP candidates have condemned Trump's remarks about McCain.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.