01:41 - Source: CNN
McCain opens up about Trump comments
(CNN) —  

Donald Trump owes veterans an apology for suggesting American prisoners-of-war may not qualify as heroes, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Monday.

Trump drew swift rebuke from members of his own party for downplaying the military heroism of Sen. John McCain, who was held and tortured in Vietnam.

Earnest said when then-Sen. Barack Obama was running against McCain during the 2008 presidential election, Obama “expressed his admiration and deep respect for Sen. McCain’s heroism.” The numerous political differences between the two men “have not reduced (Obama’s) appreciation for Sen. McCain’s remarkable service to the country.”

Earlier Monday McCain said he didn’t feel Trump owed him an apology, suggesting instead the billionaire real estate developer apologize to American veterans.

“He’s right when he says that our veterans are the ones who are entitled to an apology,” Earnest said, noting later that Republican candidates for president face a “significant challenge” from Trump’s insurgent campaign.