John McCain denounces Donald Trump but won't withdraw support

Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) addresses the National Congress of American Indians in a file photo from February 2006. Photo by Indianz.Com

Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) denounced Donald Trump on Monday for controversial comments about a war hero but he refused to withdraw his support for the Republican Party's presidential nominee.

McCain issued a lengthy statement that said Trump "disparaged" the family of Humayun Khan, who died in Iraq in 2004 while protecting his fellow American soldiers. Those comments are not in line with Republican values, McCain said.

"Arizona is watching. It is time for Donald Trump to set the example for our country and the future of the Republican Party," McCain said. "While our party has bestowed upon him the nomination, it is not accompanied by unfettered license to defame those who are the best among us."

McCain, though, stopped short of rescinding his endorsement of the party's top candidate. He's continued to support for Trump even though the real estate mogul last summer made negative remarks about his military service.

During last week's Democratic National Convention, several speakers made reference to those comments as they defended McCain as a decorated veteran who was taken as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. On the final night, the parents of Humayun Khan took the stage in what has become a defining moment of the general election campaign due to Trump's focus on it.

The speech by Khizr Khan, with his wife, Ghazala Khan, at his side, prompted Trump's attacks on the family on social media and in media appearances. Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence, a former governor of Indiana, issued a statement on Sunday calling Humayun Khan an "American hero" but otherwise not offer any apologies or regrets on behalf of his running mate.

McCain is running for re-election to the U.S. Senate but is facing a tough challenge from Ann Kirkpatrick, who is a member of Congress. Polls compiled by Real Clear Politics show McCain ahead although Kirkpatrick remains within striking distance.

McCain is a former two-time chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and remains well-respected by elected tribal leaders in Arizona. But his stature among tribal citizens in general has suffered due to his focus on the negative aspects of the tribal gaming industry and the Jack Abramoff scandal, an agenda that was not entirely appreciated in Indian Country.

More recently, McCain has faced criticism for pushing the controversial Resolution Copper land swap through Congress. Foreign developers plan to build a huge mine at Oak Flat, a site held sacred by Apache tribes in Arizona.

Kirkpatrick supports the mine too so there isn't much difference between the two candidates on that issue. And, like McCain, she supports a bill that would prevent the Tohono O'odham Nation from using its trust lands for gaming. The tribe has opened the casino anyway despite facing intense political and legal pressure.

Native Americans represent 5.3 percent of Arizona's population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. If the race between McCain and Kirkpatrick becomes extremely close as November approaches, their votes could help determine the eventual winner.

Get the Story:
John McCain condemns Trump over attacks on Khan family (The Washington Post 8/1)
John McCain Denounces Donald Trump’s Comments on Family of Muslim Soldier (The New York Times 8/1)
Donald Trump’s Confrontation With Muslim Soldier’s Parents Emerges as Unexpected Flash Point (The New York Times 8/1)

Indianz.Com at the 2016 Democratic National Convention:
Indian Country again shares stage on final night of Dem convention (7/29)
Native Democrats make urgent case for Hillary Clinton as president (7/28)
Indian Country shares spotlight at Democratic National Convention (7/27)
Recap: Native American Council at Democratic National Convention (7/27)
Indian Country makes presence known at Democratic convention (7/26)
Native American Council meets at Democratic National Convention (07/25)

Republican Party Platform Documents:
2016: Honoring Our Relationship with American Indians | 2012: Honoring Our Relationship with American Indians | 2008: Supporting Native American Communities | 2004: Native Americans | 2000: Native Americans

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