Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a close ally of Donald Trump, issued a rare rebuke of the President on Thursday when he said Trump’s crude attack on the late Rep. John Dingell is “not funny.”
Trump drew widespread criticism on Wednesday when, during a rally in Dingell’s home state of Michigan, he implied that the late Democratic congressman was “looking up” from hell.
“The bottom line is, it’s not a funny joke and you’re not helping yourself,” Graham, speaking to reporters following a meeting with the President at the White House, said he told Trump.
Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said that there’s “no personal animosity” between Trump and Dingell, arguing that Trump had “made sure” that Dingell was “honored as being one of the greatest members of the House ever” with a full military funeral.
“I can understand being frustrated, but Mr. President, pull us together as a country. This joke does not help. It is not funny in my view,” Graham said.
Asked how Trump reacted, Graham said, “he’s going to decide how to conduct himself in that regard” noting that Trump has “said this joke about several people, not just John Dingell.”
“I want you to be successful but I’m not going to tell you things I don’t believe. It’s not funny,” Graham said he told the President.
Graham’s response is notable not just because of his close ties with Trump, but because congressional Republicans rarely criticize the President, including in the aftermath of his swipe at Dingell, a longtime colleague.
Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell, who now holds her husband’s seat in the House, has responded to Trump’s attacks, telling CNN the comments will not intimidate her and that she doesn’t want an apology from the President.
Dingell’s fellow Michigan representative, Republican Rep. Fred Upton, said late Wednesday night that “there was no need to ‘dis’ him in a crass political way. Most unfortunate and an apology is due.”
Since the election, Graham has gone from one of Trump’s most vehement critics to one of his most vociferous defenders. The South Carolina Republican also was close friends with the late Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, who had a contentious relationship with Trump. Trump has occasionally criticized McCain even after his death in August 2018, to which Graham has offered tepid criticism.
CNN’s Devan Cole contributed to this report.