Donald Trump said Thursday he “may have” signaled in a September 2002 interview with Howard Stern that he was in favor of invading Iraq.
“Yeah, I may have,” Trump said in a CNN Republican presidential town hall hosted by Anderson Cooper. “By the time the war started I was against it. And shortly thereafter, I was really against it.”
He added that at the time he “was not a politician.”
Trump has repeatedly said that he should get “points for vision” for opposing the Iraq War from the start, noting repeatedly in stump speeches during his 2016 presidential campaign that he knew early on the war would wreak havoc in the Middle East.
Trump said in 2002 he was in favor of invading Iraq in an interview that was resurfaced by Buzzfeed on Thursday.
“Yeah, I guess so,” Trump said after Stern asked him if he favored invading Iraq. “You know, I wish the first time it was done correctly.”
The interview quickly moved past the subject of Iraq and Trump did not elaborate in that interview on his views on the Iraq war.
Trump moments before answering a question about the interview in the town hall Thursday once again touted his ardent opposition to the war in Iraq in response to a question from an undecided voter.
“I said don’t go into Iraq it’s going to ruin the balance of the Middle East,” Trump said. “It may have been the worst decision anybody has made, any president has made in the history of this country.”
Trump has repeatedly pointed to an interview he gave to Esquire Magazine in 2004, more than a year after the U.S. had already launched its military assault in Iraq, which was later also published in part by Reuters news service.
“Look at the war in Iraq and the mess that we’re in. I would never have handled it that way. Does anybody really believe that Iraq is going to be a wonderful democracy where people are going to run down to the voting box and gently put in their ballot and the winner is happily going to step up to lead the country?” Trump said in the 2004 interview.
Pressed on the lack of any public comments concerning his opposition to the war in Iraq before it launched, Trump has pointed to the fact that he was a businessman at the time and not a politician required to share his stances on public issues like the Iraq War.
Trump has repeatedly blasted former President George W. Bush for launching the war.
South Carolina Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster said Friday that Trump did the right thing in “speaking his mind” about Bush’s handling of the war.
“I think in these campaigns people ought to speak their mind. They ought to tell the truth as they see it,” the Trump supporter said on CNN’s “New Day.”
“One thing about Donald Trump is he will speak his mind and tell the truth as he sees it. He says what he means. He means what he says. And he says it in words that anybody can understand,” McMaster added.
CNN’s Eugene Scott contributed to this report.