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Donald Trump says John McCain is a war hero — but doesn't apologize

Donald Trump, who said Saturday that Sen. John McCain is not a war hero, sparred with TODAY's Matt Lauer in an interview Monday, conceding that the lawmaker is a war hero — but did not apologize.

"I'm not a fan of John McCain," the Republican presidential contender told Lauer via phone Monday. "He's done a horrible job for the vets."

Trump also told Lauer that on Saturday he did refer to McCain as a war hero.

"I said it at the news conference. I said it on the stage. The next sentence was, 'He is a war hero.' I said that, but they never want to play it," Trump explained.

Speaking on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Sen. McCain characterized Trump's remarks as "totally inappropriate," and said he believes Trump owes an apology to other military prisoners of war.

"To denigrate their service is offensive to most of our veterans," McCain said. "The best thing to do is put it behind us and move forward."

At the event on Saturday, Trump said McCain — a former naval pilot taken prisoner for almost six years during the Vietnam War — is "not a war hero." Trump added: "He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured."

Shortly after this statement, Trump said: “He’s a war hero because he was captured. Okay, I believe— perhaps he’s a war hero.”

The real estate mogul's comments sparked a swift response.

McCain's daughter, Meghan, tweeted that she was "horrified" and "disgusted."

And Trump's 2016's rivals lined up to tee off.

In an exclusive interview with NBC News, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker insisted Trump "needs to apologize."

"I think more people need to push him. Not just candidates or elected officials, I think more people across America including some of those who, maybe up until now, have been supporters of him," Walker said.

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Chuck Todd: Trump’s McCain comments signal ending of GOP admiration

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Chuck Todd: Trump’s McCain comments signal ending of GOP admiration

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Trump tried to soften his stance on Twitter, but at least four veterans groups blasted the White House hopeful, calling his attacks on McCain "despicable" and "an insult."

NBC's Peter Alexander contributed to this report.

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