JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — President Donald Trump slammed Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill as “phony” in a tweet on Wednesday after she used a private plane during part of a recent RV road trip through Missouri to visit veterans.
Trump and Republicans piled on McCaskill for taking some flights on her husband’s company’s propeller plane during the three-day tour. Trump on Wednesday tweeted “people are really upset, so phony!”
McCaskill is in a tough re-election race in state that voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016, and the outcome could determine party control of the U.S. Senate. She faces a potential showdown with the state’s Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley, who has been endorsed by Trump.
McCaskill spokeswoman Meira Bernstein said in a statement that the incumbent spent two days in the RV during the three-day, late May tour and “only flew to where she stayed overnight and to allow for an additional stop that otherwise would not have been possible.” Bernstein said no campaign or taxpayer dollars “are ever used for the plane.”
“Paying on my own dime to visit more Missouri veterans is not something I’m going to apologize for,” McCaskill said in a statement Wednesday after the Trump tweet.
The tour featured #Big Blue, a dark blue recreational vehicle with “Claire McCaskill” emblazoned on the side and a map of Missouri in yellow. Her campaign promoted the tour with several photos of the RV, some with McCaskill standing in front of #Big Blue.
Hawley in a Tuesday tweet challenged McCaskill to give up use of the private plane for the rest of the campaign and “live like the rest of us.”
His campaign manager, Kyle Plotkin, on Wednesday said use of the plane was hypocritical of McCaskill.
This is not the first time McCaskill has faced criticism for flying on private planes.
She sold a private plane she co-owned with her husband in 2011 after her use of it for official business and failure to pay back taxes created a political headache. She repaid the government $88,000 after she was criticized for reimbursing herself for use of the plane on official and political travel. Then she paid an initial $287,000, rising to $320,000 in back taxes, penalties and interest to St. Louis County.
Plotkin on Wednesday said that Hawley has not flown to any campaign stops in Missouri.