WASHINGTON—Donald Trump, who has spent weeks at or near the top of the Republican presidential primary polls, mocked Sen. John McCain’s war record as a POW in Vietnam on Saturday, drawing immediate condemnation from some of his GOP opponents.

WASHINGTON—Donald Trump, who has spent weeks at or near the top of the Republican presidential primary polls, mocked Sen. John McCain’s war record as a POW in Vietnam on Saturday, drawing immediate condemnation from some of his GOP opponents.


"He’s a war hero because he was captured," Trump said in Iowa, referring to McCain, an Arizona Republican who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. "I like people who weren’t captured."


The question now is whether Trump — who saw his campaign take off after broadly denouncing Mexican immigrants who crossed the border illegally as rapists and drug dealers — may have gone too far with his latest comments to remain popular with segments of the GOP base, many of whom view military service, POWs and McCain with reverence.


Trump, who made the remarks at a conference of religious conservatives, received four student deferments from military service between 1964 and 1968 and a medical deferment, according to 2011 published reports.


Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who previously had avoided discussing Trump, told reporters Saturday, "I unequivocally denounce him," according to his campaign.


Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry called on Trump to apologize immediately.


"His attack on veterans make him unfit to be commander-in-chief of the U.S. armed forces, and he should immediately withdraw from the race for president," Perry said in a statement.


Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said on Twitter that McCain is an "American hero."


"After Donald Trump spends six years in a POW camp, he can weigh in on John McCain’s service," Jindal added.


Trump has lost numerous commercial endorsements and business deals in recent weeks because of his comments regarding Mexican immigrants during his announcement speech. The statements have worried Republican leaders, who are trying to show a more tolerant face for the party.


The Republican National Committee immediately denounced Trump’s comments on Saturday.


"Sen. McCain is an American hero because he served his country and sacrificed more than most can imagine. Period," spokesman Sean Spicer said. "There is no place in our party or our country for comments that disparage those who have served honorably."


Trump has clashed verbally numerous times in recent weeks with McCain, who supports a comprehensive immigration overhaul.


While in Phoenix last week, Trump went out of his way to single out McCain in the senior senator’s home state when speaking to reporters about immigration.


"I’ve supported John McCain, but he’s very weak on immigration," Trump said.


He also questioned whether McCain, who is up for re-election in 2016, would hold onto his Senate seat.


"I think he will probably lose if somebody runs against him for the Republican nomination," he said. "If the right person runs against John McCain, he will lose."


McCain, meanwhile, has criticized Trump’s rhetoric.


"This performance with our friend out in Phoenix is very hurtful to me," McCain told The New Yorker. "Because what he did was he fired up the crazies."


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(Times staff writer Kurtis Lee contributed to this story.)


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