McCain denies Vietnam draft comments were about Trump

McCain denies Vietnam draft comments were about Trump
© Getty Images

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP senators appalled by 'ridiculous' House infighting MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace, Chris Christie battle over Fox News Trump's attacks on McConnell seen as prelude to 2024 White House bid MORE (R-Ariz.) is knocking the media, saying they are inaccurately portraying his recent comments about high-income Americans getting draft deferments from the Vietnam War over bone spurs as a slight against President Trump. 

"By the way ... on this issue of people who got deferments from serving in Vietnam. I was against that 40 years ago, so for you people to say that I'm taking a shot at Trump over that, then you don't know my record," McCain said on Monday evening. 

He added that deferments from the draft for the Vietnam War were "unfair and unequal. The rich people didn't serve and the poor people did. It has nothing to do with President Trump." 

McCain's comments, which were unprompted, came after he was asked by The Hill if he was planning to attend the Senate GOP caucus lunch with Trump on Tuesday. 


The current dust-up started when McCain argued, during a larger interview about the draft, that high-income individuals were able to unfairly get deferments. 

“One aspect of the [Vietnam] conflict, by the way, that I will never ever countenance is that we drafted the lowest income level of America, and the highest income level found a doctor that would say that they had a bone spur,” McCain told C-SPAN 3

The comments were widely interpreted as a veiled swipe at Trump, who received five deferments from the draft during the Vietnam War, including one due to heel spurs, a bone protrusion caused by calcium buildup.

McCain said during an interview with ABC's "The View" on Monday morning that he doesn't think Trump is a "draft dodger" but that the system for deciding who served in the Vietnam War was unfair. 

“I don’t consider him so much a draft dodger as I feel that the system was so wrong that certain Americans could evade their responsibilities to serve the country,” McCain said.

McCain has emerged as one of Trump's most consistent GOP critics. 

The C-SPAN 3 interview came after Trump and McCain spent last week exchanging fire after the Arizona senator blasted "spurious nationalism” in a widely praised speech.

When asked about McCain's speech, Trump said: "People have to be careful, because at some point I fight back."

"I've faced greater challenges than this," McCain shot back.

Trump had earned GOP ire in 2015 when he mocked McCain's military service, saying, "I like people who weren’t captured."

McCain spent more than five years as a prisoner of war after his plane was shot down.