President Donald Trump rejected a White House statement mourning the loss of John McCain and praising the late senator and war hero, according to a report from The Washington Post.
Sources told the Post that White House aides including press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Chief of Staff John Kelly advocated for a personalized statement that praised McCain’s longtime service in both the Army and the US Senate. Multiple drafts of the statement had been written in advance and a final version of it had been prepared for the president’s approval.
Trump instead reportedly told aides he would issue his own statement, which critics noted did not contain a personal message about McCain, who died on Saturday at the age of 81.
“My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain,” Trump tweeted on Saturday. “Our hearts and prayers are with you!”
The statement stands in stark contrast with the tributes offered by former presidents, Congressional colleagues of McCain’s, and world leaders, who used glowing language to mark McCain’s death and note his distinguished military and political career. Melania Trump even took to Twitter to thank McCain for his “service to the nation.”
Sanders, who tweeted Sunday that McCain was a “great American” declined to comment on the Washington Post report Sunday.
Trump had feuded with McCain for years, most notably in 2016 when Trump said McCain was “not a war hero” because he was captured by North Vietnamese soldiers.
“I like people that weren’t captured,” Trump said.
McCain frequently criticized Trump for his behavior and policies, and dramatically cast the deciding vote to not repeal the Affordable Care Act last year, an act that drew a round of angry tweets from Trump.
Critics on Saturday blasted for president for the seemingly superficial nature of his words for McCain.
“It’s atrocious,” Mark Corallo, a former spokesman for Trump’s legal team and a Republican strategist, told The Post. “At a time like this, you would expect more of an American president when you’re talking about the passing of a true American hero.”
McCain reportedly requested that former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush deliver eulogies at his funeral, while Trump was not invited. Aides told the Post it is unclear if Trump will be at Capitol Hill on Friday where McCain will lie in state as part of his funeral procession