President Donald Trump ignored Sen. John McCain during his only public remarks Friday, declining to say anything about the former prisoner of war and 35-year veteran of Congress who has decided to end his treatment for terminal brain cancer.
At a fundraising dinner for the Ohio Republican Party in Columbus Friday night, Trump reiterated the staples of his stump speech, touting his economic record, railing against illegal immigration and insulting a series of prominent Democrats.
The president even gave shout-outs to Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West. But he said nothing about the Arizona Republican.
Trump's silence about his fellow Republican — a frequent critic who the president often mocks at his campaign rallies — stood in jarring contrast to a bipartisan national outpouring of esteem Friday afternoon for McCain, who endured torture after his Navy plane was shot down in Vietnam and who launched a political career that saw him rise to win the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, after his family announced he had opted to stop being treated for cancer.
"I would just ask each and every one of you to hold John McCain in your prayers," House Speaker Paul Ryan said at a tax policy event in his home state Friday. "John is obviously entering the last stages, and this is a man who served our country in so many ways and capacities —who was a prisoner of war for several years at thee Hanoi Hilton, and then fought for us in Congress, and we just want to keep John McCain, Cindy and their entire family in our prayers.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas and Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., all mentioned McCain Friday.
Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who began his House service alongside McCain in 1983, recalled being able to fight with McCain one day and work with him the next.
"There were times when we were cursing each other and staring one another down and other times we were in a warm embrace," Durbin said. "That was the nature of a relationship with John McCain. When he was by your side as friend and ally, you couldn't have had a stronger ally, a stronger friend, and a better result."
But Trump was never able to forge that kind of relationship with McCain, who called Trump's supporters "crazies" during the 2016 election. Trump responded by questioning whether McCain was really a "war hero" because he was shot down.
"I like people who weren't captured," Trump said in July 2015.
In recent months, as McCain has battled for his life, Trump has singled out the senator's vote against an effort to repeal Obamacare to rile up his own anti-McCain supporters. And he did not apologize after reports this spring that a White House aide had mocked the senator's cancer prognosis at a closed-door meeting.
Earlier this year, a source close to McCain confirmed to NBC News that people close to the senator had told the White House that the Arizona Republican did not want the president to attend his funeral and wanted Vice President Mike Pence to come instead.