White House spokesman Josh Earnest waded into the fierce national debate over Donald Trump's denigration of Sen. John McCain's status as a war hero, and echoed McCain's call for Trump to apologize to all veterans for it.

Earnest made a point of amplifying President Obama's admiration for McCain's "heroism" during his five-year imprisonment in Vietnam even as he acknowledged their clear and often heated differences on foreign policy and other major issues.

"Even in the midst of their competitive 2008 campaign for the White House, then-Sen. Obama expressed his admiration and deep respect for Sen. McCain's heroism," Earnest told reporters Monday.

Their political differences have continued, he said, but "those debates have not reduced his appreciation for Sen. McCain's remarkable service to the country," he said.

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