A group that supports veterans condemned Donald Trump's criticism on John McCain's military service.
"Donald Trump's attacks against Senator McCain today are the height of arrogance and reveal that he has no understanding of what our Vietnam POWs endured and the honor they displayed during their captivity—Senator McCain among them," CEO of Concerned Veterans for America Pete Hegseth said in a statement.
Speaking at a conference of religious conservatives on Saturday, Trump was pressed on his recent description of Arizona Sen. John McCain as "a dummy."
The moderator, Republican pollster Frank Luntz, described McCain as "a war hero." McCain spent more than five years as a prisoner of war after his plane was shot down during combat in Vietnam.
Trump said McCain "is a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured."
Trump is among 10 GOP presidential candidates on the program for the Family Leader Summit in Ames, Iowa.
During a news conference after his appearance, Trump did not apologize but tried to clarify his remarks: "If a person is captured, they're a hero as far as I'm concerned. I don't like the job John McCain is doing in the Senate because he is not taking care of our veterans."
Trump said he avoided service in the Vietnam War through student deferments and a medical deferment, then said he didn't serve because "I was not a big fan of the Vietnam war." He added he wasn't a protester.
Other GOP presidential contenders quickly came to McCain's defense. Republican presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham said Donald Trump was wrong for criticizing McCain's war record.
"The people of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina are going to have a say about him and what he saidand here's what I think they'll tell him: 'You're fired,'" Graham told NBC News.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story misidentified the organization for which Pete Hegseth works. He is the CEO of Concerned Veterans for America.