The office of former first lady Melania Trump clapped back at a report published this week claiming she said the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was “not a war hero” after enduring unimaginable abuse as a prisoner during the Vietnam War.
On Wednesday, Business Insider reported that Trump “shared her husband’s low opinion” of McCain’s “military record” as a Navy fighter pilot who was shot down and severely injured before he was captured by North Vietnamese forces and interned for nearly six years.
The outlet, which allegedly quoted former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski for its story, added that Melania “agreed” with husband and future President Donald Trump when he said McCain was “not a war hero” during a Republican primary campaign event in Iowa in 2016.
BI reported that Lewandowski’s comments came as part of “an oral history project” on how Trump took over the Republican Party.
The outlet said that Lewandowski and then-candidate Trump met up with Melania Trump in New Jersey amid fall-out over the comment, as pundits and conservative talkers on the radio and TV opined that Trump should apologize in order to save his campaign.
“As we walked in the door, Mrs. Trump was waiting for us,” Lewandowski said, according to BI. “She said: ‘You’re right. John McCain isn’t a war hero. What he has done for the veterans has been shameful.'”
BI also quoted Michael Cohen, Trump’s disgraced former personal lawyer who was convicted on “tax evasion, making false statements to a federally insured bank, and campaign finance violations,” according to the Justice Department.
He said that Melania did not hesitate to share her thoughts with her candidate husband.
“Melania played a very limited role during the campaign not believing Donald would actually win,” Cohen said, according to the outlet. “However, when directly asked for her opinion on a matter by Donald, she offered it readily.”
But the former first lady’s office called BI’s description of events “inaccurate” in an email follow-up.
“Mrs. Trump respects and values all servicemen and women who have served and are currently serving our great Nation,” said the office.
UPDATE: Melania Trump office denies she said McCain not a war hero. "Mrs. Trump respects and values all service men and women who have served and are currently serving our great Nation," her office said. https://t.co/ZD4DX9Uc5w
— Tom LoBianco (@tomlobianco) July 21, 2021
Others also pushed back on the BI report, including Jessie Jane Duff, a retired U.S. Marine and Newsmax contributor.
“The impression is this article was published to make a gross attempt to degrade Melania Trump’s exceptional legacy and positive public image as 1st Lady. Military veterans hold Mrs Trump in the highest regard for her devotion to our community. She ALWAYS extends grace and class,” Duff noted on Twitter in response to the Business Insider story.
In July 2015, after he launched his candidacy for the GOP nomination the previous month and during the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, Trump leveled his accusation at McCain.
“He’s not a war hero,” he told Frank Luntz, who was moderating the event. “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
The comment drew widespread condemnation at the time and predictions from many that Trump’s campaign was over before it began.
Trump went on to walk back his comment, to an extent. “If a person is captured, they’re a hero as far as I am concerned,” he said after the Ames event. ”But you have to do other things also.” But he continued to hit McCain over his perceived lack of interest in standing up for veterans.
A poll taken after Trump’s comments found that most military vets had a more favorable view of Trump than of McCain.
But prior to Trump’s remarks about McCain’s POW status, the then-Arizona senator ripped Trump’s rhetoric on illegal immigration, a theme he struck when he held a rally in Phoenix in mid-July 2015. McCain accused Trump of “firing up the crazies” within the GOP.
“This performance with our friend out in Phoenix is very hurtful to me,” McCain said at the time. “Because what he did was he fired up the crazies.”
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