President Donald Trump is hailing Sen. John McCain as an "American hero" today as the Arizona senator, under treatment for a brain tumor, returns to the Capitol for a vote on the Republican health care bill.
But during the presidential campaign, then-candidate Trump denigrated the war record of McCain, who served many years in the U.S. Navy and who during the Vietnam War was captured by the North Vietnamese, held as a prisoner of war and tortured.
"He's not a war hero," Trump said of the Republican senator at the 2015 Family Leadership Summit in Iowa. "He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured."
"So great that John McCain is coming back to vote. Brave - American hero!" Trump tweeted. "Thank you John."
The president also wished the senator well last week during a White House event when news broke of his diagnosis.
“I can tell you, we hope John McCain gets better very soon because we miss him. He's a crusty voice in Washington, plus we need his vote," Trump said of the 80-year-old McCain, who has served in the Senate for about three decades.
Trump's comments in 2015 were not the first time he questioned whether McCain was a military hero.
In January 2000, when McCain was a candidate for president, Trump told NBC News in an interview, “You would say that maybe he wasn’t an actual war hero. He was captured, but maybe not a war hero."
McCain, who has in the past gone against his party's thinking, has also been critical of Trump.
During the 2016 election, McCain revoked his endorsement Trump for president following the release of a 2005 recording in which Trump can be heard making lewd comments about women.
Last Thursday, while the Arizona senator was at home recovering from surgery, his Senate office issued a statement quoting McCain criticizing the Trump administration after The Washington Post reported that Trump had ended a covert CIA program aiding rebels fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"If these reports are true, the administration is playing right into the hands of Vladimir Putin. Making any concession to Russia, absent a broader strategy for Syria, is irresponsible and short-sighted," the statement said.
During an event in May, following Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey, McCain said the saga involving the president and Comey "is reaching the point where it's of Watergate size and scale."