After months of largely avoiding questions about Donald Trump, Sen. John McCain broke his silence about the presumptive Republican presidential nominee's provocative rhetoric that targeted McCain last summer.
Trump ignited a firestorm last July for his criticism of McCain, asserting he was only a war hero "because he was captured."
"I like people that weren't captured," Trump said then.
See photos of John McCain's capture and rescue:
In a CNN interview Sunday, the Arizona senator called on Trump to apologize to former prisoners of war.
"I think it's important for Donald Trump to express his appreciation for veterans," McCain said.
The Arizona Republican, a decorated Vietnam War veteran who spent years in captivity after being shot down during the war, emphasized that the apology should not be about him.
"What he said about me, John McCain, that's fine. I don't require any repair of that," McCain said. "But when he said, 'I don't like people who were captured,' then there's a body of American heroes, and I'd like to see him retract that statement. Not about me, but about the others."
Though McCain said he'd support Trump's presidential bid, he added that Trump's ad-hominem attacks during the campaign bothered him "a lot."
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"You can almost violently disagree with someone on an issue. But to attack their character and their integrity — those wounds will take a long time to heal," McCain said.
Despite massive blowback from leaders of both parties, Trump has refused to apologize for his comments.
"People that fought hard and weren't captured and went through a lot, they get no credit. Nobody even talks about them. They're like forgotten. And I think that's a shame, if you want to know the truth," Trump said in July.
Despite his endorsement, McCain recently acknowledged privately that Trump's at-times inflammatory statements about immigration and plan to deport the approximately 11 million immigrants living in the US illegally have made his 2016 Senate reelection bid much more difficult.
"If Donald Trump is at the top of the ticket, here in Arizona, with over 30% of the vote being the Hispanic vote, no doubt that this may be the race of my life," McCain said at a private event, according to Politico. "If you listen or watch Hispanic media in the state and in the country, you will see that it is all anti-Trump. The Hispanic community is roused and angry in a way that I've never seen in 30 years."