Arizona Sen. Martha McSally (R) offered praise for the late Sen. John McCain in response to Donald Trump’s ongoing attacks against him but stopped short of condemning the president’s behavior directly.
McSally, who holds McCain’s former U.S. Senate seat, tweeted on Wednesday that she’s thankful for the late senator’s “service and legacy to our country and Arizona” and called him an “American hero” ― a title Trump has repeatedly said he questions whether McCain deserves.
“Everyone should give him and his family the respect, admiration, and peace they deserve,” McSally tweeted.
McCain, a decorated Navy veteran who was a prisoner of war for more than five years during the Vietnam War, died in August 2018 after being diagnosed with brain cancer more than a year earlier.
McSally’s compliments came two days after Trump told reporters at the White House that he was “never a fan” of McCain and “never will be.” On Sunday, he also attempted to soil McCain’s legacy on Twitter, referring to him as “last in his class” McCain.
Trump, who avoided the Vietnam draft, has repeatedly expressed disdain for McCain, who vocally opposed Trump during the 2016 presidential election. The senator voted against the president’s attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017.
On Wednesday, Trump once against took shots at his former rival at a public event, while taking credit for approving McCain’s state funeral.
“I gave him the kind of funeral that he wanted, which as president I had to approve,” he said. “I didn’t get a thank you, that’s OK.”
An op-ed published in the Arizona Republic on Wednesday suggested that McSally’s decision not to directly condemn Trump is likely because she faces election in 2020 to maintain control of her seat.
“She’s afraid that if she speaks honestly about Trump, he’ll turn on her,” the op-ed accused, while further describing her response to Trump as disappointing. “She’s scared. Sad, but understandable.”
Twitter users responding to McSally’s tweet on Wednesday similarly called on her to identify Trump by name.