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Several candidates in the crowded field for the upcoming Republican presidential nomination have rallied to the defense to defend Arizona senator John McCain’s vaunted Vietnam War service record against attacks made by GOP hopeful Donald Trump over the weekend at the conservative Family Leaders Summit. The billionaire New York real estate tycoon and media personality, who, according to a recent July 15 poll by Fox News, leads the burgeoning Republican field by four points over establishment favorite Jeb Bush, expressed his belief to Summit moderator Frank Miller. He said that McCain”s military history did not set him apart. “He’s not a war hero,” Trump said of McCain, who was held as a POW for over five years by the North Vietnamese government after being shot down while flying attack routes against the communist regime during the Vietnam War. “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”
Trumps comments have caused consternation on the part of many of his rivals in the crowded GOP field, eliciting strong rebukes by a number of the likely front-runners. On Twitter, Jeb Bush denounced Trump’s comments as “slanderous attacks.” Rick Perry, former governor of Texas and another in the ever-expanding field of Republican hopefuls, went further, explaining on social media that Trump’s statements “make him unfit to be Commander-in-Chief.”
Florida Senator Marco Rubio characterized Trump’s statements as “absurd and offensive.” Rubio echoed Perry’s sentiments regarding the significance of Trump’s comments, stating to CNN’s Jake Tapper that Trump’s discrediting of the 2008 Republican presidential candidate’s patriotism should “disqualify” Trump from the job of Commander-In-Chief.
Several candidates, including New Jersey governor Chris Christie, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, as well as Texas Senator Ted Cruz, took to McCain’s defense, uniformly characterizing McCain as an American hero.
Donald Trump’s efforts to take back his earlier statements have done little to stem the tide of criticism directed at him by his fellow GOP contenders, though polls have yet to indicate whether his words have had an effect on his strong early showing in the polls.