Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) defended Donald Trump on Tuesday against accusations that the Republican nominee implied some military veterans were not “strong” enough to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“The bias that is in the media. What he is saying is that some people, for whatever reason, and we really don’t understand why, suffer from PTSD, and others don’t,” McCain told the Arizona Daily Star‘s editorial board.
“I know people who have suffered from PTSD,” McCain continued. “I never have. I have never had a flashback. I never had a bad memory; I never had anything but the greatest gratitude for the honor of serving in the company of heroes.”
On Monday, Trump called for robust mental healthcare for veterans, saying to a gathering of the Retired American Warriors PAC, “When you talk about the mental health problems, when people come back from war and combat, they see things that maybe a lot of folks in this room have seen many times over. And you’re strong and you can handle it, but a lot of people can’t handle it.”
Trump’s comments immediately drew criticism from veterans’ mental heath advocates who say he was furthering the stigma that those struggling with the mental scars of war are “weak.”
McCain has supported Trump’s bid for the presidency despite a comment from Trump in July 2015 that the Arizona senator, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, was only a war hero “because he was captured.”
“I like people who weren’t captured,” Trump said at the time. It was an early gaffe that many pundits incorrectly assumed would end the real estate mogul’s campaign.
Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ), who is challenging John McCain for his seat in the U.S. Senate, said McCain’s defense of Trump marked “a new low.”
“Instead of standing up for our veterans, McCain chose to stand up for Trump — proving that he will literally say or do anything to cling onto his 33-year Washington career,” Kirkpatrick told the Arizona Daily Star.