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Donald Trump on John McCain in 1999: ‘Does being captured make you a hero?’

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and President Trump have been at odds with each other for a while. Here's a look at their war of words. (Video: Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

As a candidate for president in 2015, Donald Trump prompted disbelief — as well as a wave of public outrage — when he derided Sen. John McCain’s military service. The Arizona Republican and decorated veteran, Trump said, was “not a war hero” because he had spent five years in captivity as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam.

“I like people that weren’t captured,” Trump said at the time.

A recently resurfaced video shows, however, that he began mocking McCain’s war record far earlier.

In a December 1999 interview with Dan Rather, Trump was asked about McCain, who had recently kicked off his first presidential bid. Trump also made a short-lived run that year for the Reform Party’s presidential nomination.

“He was captured,” Trump said of McCain. “Does being captured make you a hero? I don’t know. I’m not sure.”

Video of the interview began making the rounds on social media Tuesday after it was posted by Politico’s Jake Sherman.

McCain was diagnosed with brain cancer in July 2017 and has remained in Arizona since December. Yet that appears not to have had an effect on President Trump, whose attacks on McCain have become a staple of his campaign trail appearances.

In addition to McCain’s military service, Trump has mocked the senator for his vote last year against a “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Care Act. The president made one such attack as recently as last week — and was sharply criticized by McCain’s daughter Meghan McCain, a co-host of ABC’s “The View.”

“Gross and pathetic — as usual,” she tweeted.

The senator, meanwhile, has not held back on his criticism of Trump. After last month’s summit between Trump and Russian President Vladi­mir Putin in Helsinki, McCain issued a scathing statement in which he said that Trump “proved not only unable, but unwilling to stand up to Putin” and that “no prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant.”