Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) is facing backlash after claiming to reporters on Monday that the late Senator John McCain (AZ) is partially responsible for President Donald Trump’s reaction to his death.
The president faced public outcry for his refusal to remark on the character of McCain, with whom he often clashed, as well as for his unwillingness to release a statement calling McCain a hero and for returning flags to full staff after briefly lowering them to half-staff over the weekend.
Many saw Trump’s actions as petty and vindictive. Trump later relented, but not before Senator Inhofe attempted to defend him:
Well, you know, frankly, I think that John McCain is partially to blame for that because he is very outspoken. He disagreed with the President in certain areas and wasn’t too courteous about it.
When asked what he thought about Trump refusing to call McCain a hero, Inhofe–who has repeatedly used the term to describe McCain–said, “Oh, let them have their thing, I have no opinions about that. He was my hero.”
The statements came after Inhofe praised McCain in the Senate.
You always remember the people who help you when no one else would. John McCain was a fighter who was deeply loyal to his country, his family, his constituents &the causes he cared about. He was a patriot &always faithful. @SenJohnMcCain, thank you for your service and sacrifice. pic.twitter.com/KmTVpmHP7q
— Jim Inhofe (@JimInhofe) August 28, 2018
Many social media users were outraged at his statement that McCain was partially to blame.
I thought Senator James Inhofe’s lowest point was bringing a snowball to the Senate floor to disprove global warming. But now he blames Senator McCain the day after his passing for the petty behavior of our president. Disgraceful. https://t.co/sJ4oCmV7AB
— Mike Levin (@MikeLevinCA) August 28, 2018
Senator Jim Inhofe said John McCain is partially to blame for trump’s refusal to lower the White House flag to half staff in honor of John McCain.
Repeat: Inhofe blames McCain – who died – for disrespecting McCain.
There is no bottom with these people. https://t.co/D7F5vO3IlJ
— Philippe Reines (@PhilippeReines) August 27, 2018
Dear Sen. Inhofe; The late Sen. mcCain is not “partially to blame” for the WH flag controversy because he was “mean” to Trump. McCain is a hero because he spoke truth to power regardless of party. You should try it sometime. @MSNBC https://t.co/sBEy46jMlM
— Frank Figliuzzi (@FrankFigliuzzi1) August 28, 2018
And that Inhofe appeared to contradict his statements in the Senate.
@JimInhofe is a Trump BS artist. Speaks with forked tongue. On Senate Floor praises McCain then blames McCain for flag issue. Never put a small man into a big job is appropriate when talking about Trump & Inhofe.
— STAN DUZY (@stan_duzy) August 28, 2018
Though Inhofe said McCain “wasn’t too courteous” about his disagreements with Trump, the same could be said–possibly more accurately–about Trump.
McCain was a prisoner of war for nearly six years. He was offered early release, but since the code of conduct’s policy was that prisoners of war be released in the order that they were captured, McCain chose to remain behind, despite continuous imprisonment and torture.
While many would agree that these actions made McCain a hero, Trump has refused to acknowledge this for over a decade.
He made the claim in 1999 that McCain wasn’t a hero because he was captured:
"He was captured…does being captured make you a war hero? I'm not sure, I don't know." pic.twitter.com/nYPah0ZA01.
— Cyndl (@cmtwx) August 28, 2018
And again in 2015, during his presidential campaign:
Trump received a total of five draft deferments for the same war in which McCain fought. Yet, McCain was measured in his response.
— Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) August 27, 2018
McCain accused Trump of “firing up the crazies” by espousing belligerent anti-immigrant rhetoric during the 2016 campaign. Trump fired back on Twitter, calling McCain a dummy.
The thousands of people that showed up for me in Phoenix were amazing Americans. @SenJohnMcCain called them "crazies"–must apologize!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 16, 2015
.@SenJohnMcCain should be defeated in the primaries. Graduated last in his class at Annapolis–dummy!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 16, 2015
In the court of public opinion, however, McCain appears to reign supreme.
pres trump – you are commander in chief by law, duty bound to honor sen mccain
ignoring his death is a disgrace
— Tom Brokaw (@tombrokaw) August 27, 2018
Even among those who usually side with Trump.
I actually scolded Donald Trump to his face in an interview after he denigrated John McCain’s war service during the presidential campaign.
That was simply wrong, McCain was a hero. pic.twitter.com/Qt8d2R5zGV
— Bill O'Reilly (@BillOReilly) August 27, 2018
Hearing tonight from a surprising number of veterans and vets’ relatives who all say Trump’s handling of McCain’s death, esp the flag fiasco, did irreparable damage to their opinion of him, which had been positive until now.
WH & GOP, take note: It’s more serious than you think.
— Christina Wilkie (@christinawilkie) August 28, 2018
Senator Inhofe’s statements in defense of Trump almost certainly won’t bode well for his reputation. Trump, in his attempts to besmirch John McCain’s character to the American people, seems to have only succeeded in revealing his own.