By Mark Hosenball
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The widow and daughter of John McCain on Wednesday criticized President Donald Trump and his online supporters for repeated attacks on the former U.S. senator, Republican presidential nominee and Vietnam War hero who was tortured during five and a half years spent as a prisoner of war.
Speaking on Wednesday to an employee at an Ohio factory that makes military tanks, Trump again hammered McCain.
“So I have to be honest, I’ve never liked him much,” Trump said. “I really probably never will. But there are certain reasons for it.”
Meghan McCain, the daughter of the late senator, spent the last few days defending her father and politely criticizing Trump. On Wednesday she said the president had reached "a new, bizarre low - attacking someone who is not here is a new low."
She also said, "If I had told my dad ... he would think it is so hilarious that our president was so jealous of him that he was dominating the news cycle in death."
Barely six months after McCain's death, Trump started the latest exchange between himself and the McCain clan on Sunday in a blast of Tweets, including one that attacked "'last in his class' (Annapolis) John McCain."
A spokeswoman for Meghan McCain said she was not immediately available for further comment.
Cindy McCain, the senator's widow, sarcastically urged her Twitter followers to "see how kind and loving a stranger can be" and shared with them an online message from someone who described John McCain as a "traitorous piece of warmongering shit and I'm glad he's dead."
On Tuesday, speaking to reporters in the Oval Office while sitting next the president of Brazil, Trump added: “I never was a fan of John McCain, and I never will be.”
The tweets and soundbites triggered a swirl of anti-McCain attacks and pro-McCain appeals on social media, like the one Cindy McCain shared, and cable TV discussion.
Without rebuking Trump, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said in a Tweet: "Today and every day I miss my good friend John McCain. It was a blessing to serve alongside a rare patriot and genuine American hero in the Senate."
Republican Senator Johnny Isakson was more critical. In an interview with Georgia Public Broadcasting on Wednesday, he called Trump's remarks about McCain "deplorable."
The White House had no comment on Trump's latest attacks.
Trump on Wednesday expressed concern about McCain's role in the handling of a "dossier," compiled before the 2016 U.S. presidential election by a former British spy and paid for by lawyers for the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
The dossier alleged Russian financial dealings with Trump and included salacious personal details that remain unconfirmed. After the election, a copy of the dossier was given to McCain, who gave it to the FBI, according to court documents that were made public last week.
Trump and his supporters have aggressively attacked the document ever since its contents became public.
“John McCain received a fake and phony dossier ... He got it, and what did he do? He didn’t call me,” Trump said during his visit to the Ohio factory. "He turned it over to the FBI hoping to put me in jeopardy and that’s not the nicest thing to do."
(Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh, Dan Grebler and Nick Carey)