Trump on John McCain: ‘I Was Never a Fan’ but Respected Him

September 4, 2020 Updated: September 4, 2020

President Donald Trump on Thursday night said that while he did not agree with John McCain, the GOP’s 2008 presidential candidate and longtime senator, he still respected him.

“As John McCain is concerned,” Trump said, “I was never a fan.”

“I will admit that openly. I disagreed with him on the endless wars. I disagreed with him with respect to the vets and the taking care of the VA,” the president said, adding that he wanted to change how the VA, or the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, was run.

“So I disagreed with John McCain, but I still respected him. And I had to approve his funeral as president. We lowered the flags,” he said. “I had to approve that, nobody else, I had to approve it. When you think – just thinking back, I had to approve either Air Force One or a military plane to go to Arizona to pick up his casket.”

John McCain
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida on Aug. 29, 2012. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Trump was also asked about whether he made disparaging comments about U.S. Marines buried in a cemetery. The Atlantic, citing anonymous sources, carried the report.

The president denied making the comments, saying the report was false.

“To think that I would make statements negative to our military and fallen heroes when nobody has done what I’ve done,” for the U.S. armed forces, Trump told reporters. “It’s a total lie … It’s a disgrace,” he said of the report.

McCain was long known for his hawkish positions on foreign policy, openly supporting U.S. military intervention in the first Persian Gulf War in Iraq, as well as the later invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003. He was also a dedicated supporter of Israel and backed Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

When he was a candidate in 2016, Trump made critical comments about Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, for having been captured during the Vietnam war.

“He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured,” Trump said in 2015 during the Republican primary.

McCain, who lost to former President Barack Obama in the 2008 general election, died on Aug. 25, 2018. Before that, he was diagnosed with brain cancer.