WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump defended his harsh criticism of the late Sen. John McCain in an interview with Fox Business Network, blaming the news media for bringing up the feud and continuing to highlight it in daily coverage.
"I don't talk about it. People ask me the question, I didn't bring this up," Trump told host Maria Bartiromo in an interview set to air Friday. "You just brought it up, you asked the question."
Bartiromo questioned why the president continues to publicly assail McCain, a Vietnam veteran and lifelong Republican who died last August after battling brain cancer. The criticism started again last weekend after Trump sent a series of tweets attacking McCain for his handling of a dossier compiled by a former British spy on Trump's relationship with Russia leading up to the 2016 election.
The tweets led to widespread criticism, including from some Republicans. That hasn't deterred Trump from continuing to voice his disdain for the late senator.
"I endorsed him at his request and I gave him the kind of funeral that he wanted, which as president I had to approve," Trump told a crowd in Ohio on Wednesday. "I don't care about this, I didn’t get 'thank you.' That’s OK."
Bartiromo asked why the president was continuing the attacks. "You spent a good portion of your time in Ohio the other day trashing John McCain. Sen. John McCain is dead, why are you doing this?" she asked.
"It's not a good portion of my time, it's a very small portion," Trump responded and added, "If you realize about three days ago, it came out that his main person gave to the FBI the fake news dossier. It was a fake, it was a fraud, it was paid for by Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. They gave it to John McCain who gave it to the FBI for very evil purposes, that's not good."
The president then criticized McCain for his votes that prevented Republicans from repealing Obamacare — a tipping point in their already-fragile relationship.
"And the other thing he voted against repeal and replace, now he's been campaigning for years for repeal and replace. I'm not a fan. After all of this time, think of this, repeal and replace, we would have had great health care," Trump said.
"But, Mr. President, he's dead," Bartiromo said. "He can't punch back. I know you punch back, but he's dead."
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Trump blamed the media, saying reporters continue to ask him about McCain. "When they ask me the question, I answer the question," he said.
"But you people bring it up, I don't bring it up," Trump added. "I'm not a fan. He was horrible what he did with repeal and replace. What he did to the Republican Party and to the nation, and to sick people that could have had great health care, was not good. So, I’m not a fan of John McCain and that's fine."
Contributing: John Fritze, Michael Collins and David Jackson, USA TODAY
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'But, Mr. President, he's dead': Trump defends his attacks against McCain in Fox interview