WASHINGTON (AFP) - A defiant Donald Trump refused to apologize Sunday after the 2016 presidential hopeful ignited a firestorm by dismissing the military record of Senator John McCain, a former prisoner of war.
The flamboyant billionaire businessman, reality TV star and presidential contender said McCain - a decorated aviator who was tortured while spending five years in a prison camp - did not deserve hero status for his Vietnam War service.
It was just the latest verbal grenade from the outspoken Trump, 69, who identifies as a Republican and has supported Republican candidates in the past.
"No, not at all," Trump told ABC's "This Week" program, when asked if he owed McCain an apology.
Trump's comments were front page news in the United States and the hot topic in Sunday's talk shows, with fellow White House hopefuls queueing up to verbally attack the tycoon.
On Saturday, Trump told a gathering of social conservative activists in the Midwestern state of Iowa that McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential candidate, was "not a war hero.
"He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured, OK?" McCain, 78, was captured during a bombing raid over Vietnam in October 1967. The business tycoon Trump has never served in the US military.
Trump, who going into the weekend was the frontrunner in a crowded field of 15 candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, was typically unrepentant on Sunday.
"When I left the room, it was a total standing ovation. It was wonderful to see. Nobody was insulted," he said of the reception to his comments.
"What happened is, later on, the Republican candidates, some of whom are registering one percent and zero, and they're very upset that I'm leading the polls by actually a nice margin, they're extremely upset."