U.S. Sen. Al Franken once made comments about John McCain's status as a war hero - similar to ones by Donald Trump that have put the Republican presidential candidate in the center of a firestorm.
Franken’s remarks have resurfaced since Trump said over the weekend that McCain, a Republican senator from Arizona who spent more than five years as a prisoner during the Vietnam War, was "not a war hero."
"He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured," Trump told an audience in Iowa.
He has been criticized by many for the remarks, including by other Republican presidential candidates, but Trump said Monday he has nothing to apologize for.
Franken made similar comments 15 years ago - while he was still a comedian and satirist and eight years before he was elected to the Senate.
"I have tremendous respect for McCain but I don’t buy the war hero thing. Anybody can be captured. I thought the idea was to capture them. As far as I’m concerned he sat out the war," Franken wrote in a 2000 essay for Salon on that year's presidential election.
Franken emphasized Monday that he was joking at the time, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
On their own, Franken's comments sound insulting to McCain and insensitive to POWs and their families. But Franken's office issued a statement saying Franken even repeated the joke on an episode of his radio show four years later when McCain was a guest, CNN reports.
"I mean, I consider you a hero, tremendous political courage, not, you know, the thing about five years, or five and a half years at the Hanoi Hilton; as far as I'm concerned you just sat out the war. I don't consider that real heroism. Anybody can get captured, right?" Franken said to McCain during the 2004 show, according to a transcript provided by Franken's office.
Franken said on Monday that McCain thought it was funny, according to the Pioneer Press.
“I consider him not just a hero but an amazing hero,” Franken added Monday, especially since McCain was offered release because his father was an admiral in the Navy at the time. But McCain refused, to deny the North Vietnamese a propaganda victory. "That’s an amazing feat of courage…I told him that and I told him that before I told this joke.”
Still, there are some who wonder why Trump has been the subject of such a huge backlash, when Franken did not endure the same type of criticism back in 2000.
McCain himself said Monday that he doesn't need an apology from Trump, but he thinks Trump should apologize to POWs and their families.
Trump's comments came after McCain characterized the thousands of people who flocked to a Trump rally in Phoenix as "crazies," CNN noted.