John McCain Won't Say Donald Trump Should Take Back His Comments About Immigrants

But Trump's comments about prisoners of war are a different matter.

09/05/2016 1:06 AM AEST | Updated 09/05/2016 8:10 AM AEST

John McCain, Arizona’s senior Republican senator, declined to call upon Donald Trump to retract his past characterizations of undocumented Mexican immigrants entering the United States. McCain also said that Trump "could be a capable leader."

On CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, McCain was asked whether he would like to see Trump recant his statements that many undocumented Mexican immigrants are "rapists" and criminals.

"Oh, I don't know," McCain said in response. "I think that it's important that we understand the importance of the Hispanic vote in America. Many states -- in Arizona, more than 50 percent of the kids in school are Hispanic. After the 2012 election, as you know, we laid out a blueprint and part of it was outreach to the Hispanic community. I think we ought to recognize that the Republican Party has to do that.”

But McCain, who spent five and a half years in a North Vietnam prison after his Skyhawk dive bomber was shot down in 1967, did say that Trump should retract his comments about prisoners of war. Trump said in July that he liked “people who weren’t captured.”

"I'd like to see him retract that statement. Not about me, but about the others," McCain said, as he has said in past interviews. "I think it's important for Donald Trump to express his appreciation for veterans, not John McCain, but veterans who were incarcerated as prisoners of war."

Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona is running to unseat McCain in November’s general election. McCain has previously said that Trump could hurt his re-election odds in the state, where over 30 percent of the electorate is Latino. He told CNN that “a lot of things would have to happen” before he would choose to appear alongside Trump at a campaign rally.

But, unlike his fellow Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who have said they are either not yet ready to support Trump or never going to support him, McCain is still backing the presumptive Republican nominee.

“You have to draw the conclusion that there is some distance, if not a disconnect, between party leaders and members of Congress and the many voters who have selected Donald Trump to be the nominee of the party," McCain said. "You have to listen to people that have chosen the nominee of our Republican Party. ... I think it would be foolish to ignore them."

Editor's note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims -- 1.6 billion members of an entire religion -- from entering the U.S.

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