Donald Trump created a firestorm Saturday when he doubted that Senator John McCain (R-AZ) is a war hero. The reaction was swift against Trump and came from around the political sphere. Several of Trump’s fellow Republican candidates reacted, as did the Republican National Committee and 2012 presidential nominee, former Governor Mitt Romney.
Former Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) praised McCain while also criticizing Trump. He also released a statement that called on Trump to withdraw from the presidential campaign. Perry was one of the first to respond to Trump’s comments.
.@SenJohnMcCain is an American hero & all POW’s deserve our nation’s highest debt of gratitude. @realDonaldTrump‘s comments are disgraceful.
— Rick Perry (@GovernorPerry) July 18, 2015
As a fellow veteran I respect @SenJohnMcCain because he volunteered to serve his country. I cannot say the same about Mr. @realDonaldTrump. — Rick Perry (@GovernorPerry) July 18, 2015
Former Governor Jeb Bush, often a target of Trump’s, stood with McCain.
Enough with the slanderous attacks. @SenJohnMcCain and all our veterans – particularly POWs have earned our respect and admiration.
— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) July 18, 2015
Dr. Ben Carson also praised McCain on Twitter late Saturday night. Earlier in the day, he was more hesitant to stand by McCain, saying, “It depends on your definition of a war hero.”
.@SenJohnMcCain refused special treatment as POW because of his patriotism. He became and is an American hero for his selflessness, bravery — Dr. Ben Carson (@RealBenCarson) July 19, 2015
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) attacked Trump on Twitter.
America’s POWs deserve much better than to have their service questioned by the offensive rantings of Donald Trump
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) July 18, 2015
Senator McCain’s friend and ally, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) criticized Trump and backed McCain in a series of tweets.
.@SenJohnMcCain, like every other POW, went through hell & has earned our respect & gratitude — Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) July 18, 2015
If there was ever any doubt that @realDonaldTrump should not be our commander in chief, this stupid statement should end all doubt.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) July 18, 2015
If there was ever any doubt that he should not be #GOP standard bearer, his growing mountain of stupid statements should end all doubt. — Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) July 18, 2015
At the heart of @realDonaldTrump statement is a lack of respect for those who have served – a disqualifying characteristic to be president
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) July 18, 2015
Senator McCain has also endorsed Senator Graham in his presidential run. Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA) also lashed out at Trump while standing with McCain.
John McCain is an American hero. I have nothing but respect for his service to our country. — Gov. Bobby Jindal (@BobbyJindal) July 18, 2015
After Donald Trump spends six years in a POW camp, he can weigh in on John McCain’s service
— Gov. Bobby Jindal (@BobbyJindal) July 18, 2015
Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) also stood with McCain in his typical straight and blunt style.
I know @SenJohnMcCain. Senator John McCain is an American hero. Period. Stop. — Chris Christie (@ChrisChristie) July 18, 2015
Former Governor George Pataki (R-NY), who has been leading the anti-Trump campaign, said that the controversial remarks were unsurprising given their source.
.@RealDonaldTrump idiotic remarks would be shocking coming from anyone else. @SenJohnMcCain & POW heroes in line for the Trump Apology tour.
— George E. Pataki (@GovernorPataki) July 18, 2015
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who serves alongside McCain, defended McCain on Twitter, but stopped short of criticizing Trump.
John McCain is an American hero. Although we have some policy disagreements, I'm proud to serve alongside him.
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) July 18, 2015
Cruz and Trump have grown closer over the past weeks and the two met together this month. Some analysts feel Cruz is trying to piggy-back onto Trump’s rise or align himself with the businessman. Others feel that Cruz is setting himself to win over Trump supporters should his candidacy implode.
The Republican National Committee’s Communications Director, Sean Spicer, took the step of directly addressing Trump’s comments on behalf of the committee: “Senator McCain is an American hero because he served his country and sacrificed more than most can imagine. Period. There is no place in our party or our country for comments that disparage those who have served honorably.” Finally, 2012 Republican presidential nominee and former Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) criticized Trump on Twitter for the remarks.
The difference between @SenJohnMcCain and @realDonaldTrump: Trump shot himself down. McCain and American veterans are true heroes. — Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) July 18, 2015
However, Trump responded to Romney on Twitter, asking why anyone would listen to a failed presidential candidate. He pointed out that both McCain and Romney lost to President Obama, but left out that he endorsed Romney in 2012.
Why would anybody listen to @MittRomney? He lost an election that should have easily been won against Obama. By the way,so did John McCain!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 18, 2015