Donald Trump says John McCain is not a war hero—and finally alienates the Republican base

This time he may have gone too far.
This time he may have gone too far.
Image: Reuters/Nancy Wiechec
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Apparently if you want the support of the conservative base in the US, trashing Mexican immigrants is good, but trashing Republican Senator John McCain’s war record is not.

Trump mocked the former presidential candidate’s harrowing and brutal five-year stretch as a prisoner of war in Vietnam at a conservative forum on Saturday (July 18). “He’s not a war hero,” Trump said. “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, OK?”

Trump has recently surged to the top of the polls, in large part because conservatives have rallied to his cause following his unvarnished, inaccurate comments about Mexican immigrants to the US being “rapists” and criminals. But his latest comments have provoked outrage on the right—it’s something of an unspoken rule in US politics that you just aren’t allowed to attack the service of military veterans, especially beloved leading figures in your own party.

Most notably, the Republican National Committee, which is the party’s national leadership body, publicly denounced Trump’s remarks. ”Senator McCain is an American hero because he served his country and sacrificed more than most can imagine. Period,” the RNC said in an official statement. “There is no place in our party or our country for comments that disparage those who have served honorably.”

Trump’s presidential rivals spoke out as well. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, another leader among Republican presidential candidates, called Trump’s comments “slanderous” via his Twitter account.

Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, also took to Twitter to defend McCain.

Former Texas governor Rick Perry went still further, calling for Trump to withdraw from the presidential race. “His comments have reached a new low in American politics,” Perry said in a statement. “His attack on veterans make [sic] him unfit to be Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces, and he should immediately withdraw from the race for President.”

McCain, who made his war record a cornerstone of his 2008 bid for the US presidency, has made it no secret he’s not a fan of Trump’s. “He fired up the crazies,” McCain said after a recent Trump rally.

Trump slightly backtracked on his comments via his Twitter account. But then quickly resumed his offensive on McCain.

To date, Trump’s mouth has lost him numerous corporate partners, including Macy’s and PVH Corp., which made his shirt and tie collection. This time it could cost him in the Republican primary polls, too.