Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has been roundly criticized for saying Sen. John McCain is not a war hero, made a similar statement 15 years ago, in a January 11, 2000 interview with Dan Rather on 60 Minutes II:
RATHER: (Voiceover) The way Trump looks at it, he's at least better than everyone else in the race, beginning with John McCain.
Mr. TRUMP: I mean, he was captured.
RATHER: (Voiceover) And he flew combat missions with distinction.
Mr. TRUMP: Does being captured make you a hero? I don't know. I'm not sure.
It is not clear if Trump made similar comments in other interviews at the time. One book, John Karaagac's John McCain: An Essay in Military and Political History, notes that "[i]n a televised interview, Donald Trump -- in his assessment of the candidates -- wondered aloud about McCain's war record. Reading the McCain story, Trump opined, one might hesitate to call McCain's experience 'heroic.'"
Trump came under heavy fire from his fellow Republicans over the weekend for saying that Arizona Sen. John McCain, who spent five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, is "not a war hero," and, if he was, it is only because he was captured in the war.
"He's not a war hero," Trump said speaking at The Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa on Saturday.
"He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured — OK, I hate to tell ya. He's a war hero because he was captured, OK? And I believe perhaps he is a war hero, but right now, he said some very bad things about a lot of people."
McCain was captured during the war when his plane was shot down during a combat mission. His torture at the hands of North Vietnam featured repeated savage beatings and rope bindings that left him with limited mobility in his arms.
Megan Apper contributed reporting