McCain has generally kept his word, but in a gaggle on Tuesday he grew agitated when Fox News reporter Peter Doocy asked the following: “Has your relationship with the president frayed to the point that you are not going to support anything that he comes to you and asks for?”
“Why would you say something that stupid?” McCain replied. “Why would you ask something that dumb? . . . You mean that I am somehow going to behave in a way that I'm going to block everything because of some personal disagreement? That's a dumb question.”
The basic idea behind the question really wasn't dumb at all. It is natural to wonder whether the long-running feud between Trump and McCain could hinder legislative business. McCain had addressed that prospect moments earlier when he told MSNBC's Kasie Hunt: “I'm not interested in confronting the president; I'm interested in working with the president.”
But McCain clearly did not appreciate the suggestion that he might reject “everything” Trump supports — as if the senator were the one behaving unprofessionally. And, unusual as it is to see a Republican blow up at Fox News, tension between McCain and the network has been building for a while.
When Trump said in 2015 that McCain is “not a war hero,” Doocy's father, “Fox & Friends” host Steve Doocy, defended Trump instead of McCain.
“[Trump] says it one time then immediately corrects himself and says [McCain] was a war hero four times,” Steve Doocy told viewers in July 2015, suggesting that the rest of the media had misrepresented Trump's remark. In truth, Trump never really corrected himself; he said that McCain is a war hero only “because he was captured.”
Steve Doocy justified Trump's insult as standard political rhetoric.
“They don't like each other,” Doocy said. “There are a lot of people in this country who don't like each other, but it's political season and, you know, a lot of people might say, 'Look, it's Donald Trump being Donald Trump.' He is not going to apologize because he says he does not like what John McCain has done for the vets.”
McCain's rapport with some other big Fox News personalities is strained, too.
“We've had a love-hate relationship for many, many years,” Sean Hannity said on July 27.
Hannity was reacting to a speech McCain had delivered on the Senate floor on the day he returned from a brain-cancer diagnosis. McCain told his colleagues to “stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the Internet. To hell with them!”
“Talk radio, TV hosts — we are not, Senator, the ones to blame for your inaction and your failure in Washington,” Hannity said in response.
Tucker Carlson's criticism of McCain and his “sins” once spilled over into a critique of his daughter. Carlson tweeted that the senator “does not deserve a daughter like this,” referring to TV host Meghan McCain.
Carlson later apologized.
McCain has a history with Peter Doocy, too. During his campaign for president, in 2008, McCain participated in a town hall event at Villanova University, moderated by MSNBC's Chris Matthews. The younger Doocy was a student at Villanova and asked McCain this question about the Democratic primary: “I'm sure that you saw one of your Democratic opponents, Hillary Clinton, recently drinking whiskey shots with some potential voters. Now, I was wondering if you think that she's finally resorted to hittin' the sauce, just because of some unfavorable polling. And I was also wondering if you would care to join me for a shot after this.”
McCain laughed but tiptoed his way through an awkward response.
Matthews described Doocy's question as a “wiseass” question.
McCain appeared to have similar language running through his head when Doocy questioned him again on Tuesday.