Hillary Clinton calls Donald Trump comments on McCain 'shameful'

Hillary Clinton speaks to guests at the Iowa Democratic Party's Hall of Fame Dinner on July 17, 2015.
Hillary Clinton speaks to guests at the Iowa Democratic Party's Hall of Fame Dinner on July 17, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - United States presidential hopeful Donald Trump's dismissive comments about Senator John McCain's military service in the Vietnam War were "shameful," Hillary Clinton said on Saturday, joining most of her would-be Republican presidential rivals  in defending the former prisoner of war.

Hours after the real estate mogul-turned presidential candidate set off an uproarin the Republican party with his suggestion that McCain, who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, was "not a war hero," Clinton lambasted Trump in a speech at the Arkansas Democratic Party's annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner. 

Clinton, who served in the Senate with McCain, broadened her critique of Trump beyond his comments about the Arizona senator to include Trump's incendiary remarks about immigration - which set off his feud with McCain.

"There is nothing funny about" how Trump has talked about immigrants or "the insults he's directed at a genuine war hero, Senator John McCain," Clinton told her audience in North Little Rock. "It's shameful."

Noting the deference many Republicans have accorded the outspoken billionaire, whose take-no-prisoners speaking style has rocketed him towards the top of his party's presidential field, Clinton questioned why it "took so long for most of his fellow Republican candidates to stand up to him."

Some Republicans, including McCain, have publicly disagreed with Trump's comments on immigration, including a charge that Mexicans illegally crossing the border are "rapists."

But it was not until Trump attacked McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, that condemnation became more vocal and widespread. 

Almost every major Republican candidate running for president, with the notable exception of Texas Senator Ted Cruz, rounded on Trump Saturday after he pooh-poohed McCain's time in the infamous Hanoi Hilton, where the the Navy pilot was tortured to the point where he says he considered suicide.  

"He's not a war hero," Trump told a gathering of evangelicals in Ames, Iowa. "He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured."

In her visit to North Little Rock, which brought her back to the state where she was once first lady, Clinton also commented on Thursday's shooting in Chattanooga, Tennessee. A Marine from Arkansas was among the five people killed by a gunman who opened fire at two military facilities there.

The incident "breaks our hearts but it also stiffens our resolve," she said. "We will not be intimidated by terrorists. We'll be strong, we'll be smart and we'll defend our country and our values."