Donald Trump wouldn’t back down Sunday, continuing his criticism of Sen. John McCain and the Vietnam hero’s war service, as Republican rivals continued questioning whether the real estate mogul was fit to be president.
"I will say what I want to say, and maybe that’s why I’m leading in the polls," Trump told ABC’s "This Week," "because people are tired of hearing politicians and pollsters telling the politicians exactly what to say."
Trump ignited a firestorm Saturday when he disparaged McCain’s military record, telling the Iowa Family Leadership Summit, "He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured." McCain was a prisoner of war in Vietnam for five and a half years. Most of his rivals for the Republican nomination, as well as the Republican National Committee, were highly critical of Trump’s remarks.
"He's saying that somehow if you're captured in battle you're less worthy of honors," Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told CNN’s "State of the Union." "It's not just absurd, it's offensive. It's ridiculous. And I do think it's a disqualifier as commander in chief."
"Really offensive," former Texas Gov. Rick Perry told NBC’s "Meet the Press."
ABC’s Martha Raddatz read McCain’s war record to Trump. "You do not think that is a war hero, captured or not?" she asked.
What about his comments about those who were not captured?
"People that fought hard and weren't captured and went through a lot, they get no credit," Trump said. "Nobody even talks about them. They're like forgotten. And I think that's a shame, if you want to know the truth. People that were not captured that went in and fought, nobody talks about them. Those are heroes also."
Trump noted that McCain had referred to those who backed Trump’s immigration views – he’s referred to undocumented Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals – as "crazies."
"We had thousands of people and he said they're all crazies. He called them crazies," Trump said, "and frankly, I think he owes them an apology."
Raddatz brought up Trump’s deferments during the war. He said he had student deferments and a medical deferment for a bone spur in his foot. He eventually got a high draft lottery number and was not drafted.
"If I would have gotten a low number, I would have been drafted. I would have proudly served. But I got a number, I think it was 356," he said.