Businessman Donald Trump said Monday that illegal immigrants get treated better than many of Americans’ veterans and that the press is twisting recent comments he made about Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
Mr. Trump said on NBC’s “Today” program that the Department of Veterans Affairs is a “scandalous, corrupt organization,” and the media “has done a false number, as usual.”
Host Matt Lauer read Mr. Trump’s quote to him and asked him if he would say it to Mr. McCain’s face. Over the weekend, Mr. Trump had said Mr. McCain, a prisoner of war for more than five years in Vietnam, is a war hero because “he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, OK?”
“Excuse me, Matt, because you’re the media and you do the same thing,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Lauer. “The next sentence was, ‘He is a war hero.’ I said that. But they never want to play it. And you don’t want to play it.”
“Savannah [Guthrie] started it out by saying I said that he wasn’t a war hero — I didn’t say that. And if you would have let it run just another three seconds, you would have [seen] I said very clearly he is a war hero,” he said.
“I have absolutely no problem with that,” Mr. Trump said. “What I do have problems with is that he called 15,000 people that showed up for me to speak in Phoenix, he called them crazies because they want to stop illegal immigration … and they were great Americans, and he has not taken care of the vets.”
“Frankly, illegal immigrants get treated better than many of our vets — it’s a disgrace what’s happening in this country,” he said. “And John McCain has done nothing about it but talk.”
Mr. Trump said that “we don’t talk about the people that weren’t captured, and that’s what I was trying to refer to. And I think I did.”
Mr. McCain said he doesn’t feel Mr. Trump owes him an apology personally, but suggested he apologize “to the families of those who have sacrificed in conflict and those who have undergone the prison experience in serving their country.”
“I think the point here is that there are so many men and some women who served and sacrificed and happened to be held prisoner, and somehow to denigrate that in any way, their service, I think is offensive to most of our veterans,” Mr. McCain said Monday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
Mr. McCain also said he’s worked hard on veterans’ issues, pointing to his work with Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont on legislation dealing with the Department of Veterans Affairs, and that he’s not going to apologize for his “crazies” remark.
“Listen, you know my state is a very dynamic and divisive state,” Mr. McCain said. “We’ve got lots of arguments and lots of debates going on. I have hundreds of town hall meetings all over Arizona, and I’m called crazy by the people that come there.”
“I thought it was a term of endearment,” he said, chuckling.
• David Sherfinski can be reached at email@example.com.
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