President Donald Trump tweeted a noticeably curt reaction to Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) death after reportedly turning down the release of an official White House statement celebrating his late Republican colleague as a “hero.”
The Washington Post reported Sunday that Trump decided to nix the complimentary official statement that White House aides, including press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, prepared for the president in the days before the late senator’s death. McCain died on Saturday after he was diagnosed about one year ago with an aggressive form of brain cancer. He was 81 years old.
Instead, the president posted a brief tweet that did not praise McCain at all, writing, “My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!”
The president’s tweet differed significantly from the laudatory statements released by current and former government officials and staffers on both sides of the aisle, who all praised McCain as a war hero that devoted his life to public service.
The Post’s report that Trump deliberately avoided using a statement celebrating McCain’s life comes days after Trump failed to comment on the announcement that the senator would cease treatment for cancer, an indication that he was reaching the end of his life.
The Post previously reported that Trump did not release a statement because he did not want to comment on the Arizona Republican until after his death. By contrast, McCain’s colleagues sent messages of public support after the announcement was made on Friday.
McCain and Trump’s relationship has been contentious ever since the now-president insisted on the campaign trail that the senator was “not a war hero” because he was captured. Even in the final weeks of McCain’s life, Trump made his disdain for the senator clear ― failing to mention the war hero during the signing of a defense bill that bore his name.