What a way to start the week.

Donald Trump insisted Saturday that Sen. John McCain is not a war hero, but in an interview Monday, he conceded that the lawmaker is indeed a war hero. Speaking via telephone with Today's Matt Lauer, Trump refused to apologize for comments he made during the Family Leadership Summit at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. At the rally, 69-year-old Trump argued that 78-year-old McCain—a former naval pilot taken prisoner for almost six years during the Vietnam War—is "not a war hero," saying, "He is a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured, OK?" Later on, the business magnate said, "He's a war hero because he was captured. OK? And I believe...perhaps he's a war hero."

Trump's competition was quick to criticize him.

Jeb Bush disagreed with Trump, while Lindsey Graham said he "crossed a line," while Scott Walker said he "needs to apologize." Several veterans groups also blasted the presidential hopeful, calling his remarks "despicable" and "an insult."

In an op-ed for USA Today published Sunday, Trump wrote, "McCain has abandoned our veterans. I will fight for them." Trump also accused "the news media of distorting my words" from Saturday's event.

Today's Savannah Guthrie introduced the package before Trump spoke to Lauer.

"These comments that you made about John McCain, it seems to me that this part of some personal resentment you have against John McCain and perhaps he has for you. This is a feud that's boiled over into a war of words and it's less about how you would define a war hero," he told Trump. "Is that fair?"

"Well, I'm not a fan of John McCain. He's doing a terrible job for the vets," Trump replied. " I go around, Matt, on the circuit and I see so many vets and I see families crying before me. They can't see doctors. They're waiting in reception rooms for five and six days—"

Lauer cut him off, saying, "Right, but you're talking about his record on veterans affairs now, and I'm talking about comments you've made on his war service." Trump responded, "No, I'm saying that John McCain has done a horrible job. The VA is a scandalous, corrupt organization. It's a disgrace the way it's being run. The veterans of this country are suffering. With that being said, if you saw what I said and if you saw the press conference afterwards, Savannah and the media just has done such a false number, as usual. In fact, Sharyl Attkisson, the highly respected reporter—"

"Hang on," Lauer said.

"Matt, Sharyl Attkisson said I said four times that McCain is a war hero," Trump said.

"I said it at the news conference," he added. "I said it on the stage."

"Let me ask you this: Would you say to John McCain's face what you said in that one comment? And I'm using the one string of sentences together: 'He's not a war hero. He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't' captured,'" Lauer said. "Would you say that to John McCain's face?"

"No, and then if you go on Matt—that's what you don't do," Trump said.

"No, no," Lauer explained. "I said I'm using one exchange."

"Excuse me, Matt, because you're the media and you do the same thing," Trump alleged. "The next sentence was, 'He is a war hero.' I said that. But they never want to paly it, and you don't want to play it.

"Why would you say the first thing?" Lauer asked.

"Excuse me!" Trump yelled.

"Why would you say the first part?" Lauer asked again.

"Hey, Matt, Savannah started it off by saying I said that he wasn't a war hero. I didn't say that. And if you would have let it run just another three seconds, you would have said that I said very clearly he is a war hero. I have absolutely no problem with that," Trump said. Then, referring to comments McCain made earlier this month, he said, "What I do have problems with is that he called 15,000 people that showed up to see me speak in Phoenix, he called them crazies because they want to stop illegal immigration and they were insulted and they were great Americans and he has not taken care of the vets."

"Let me say for the record, we did run the other part of your comments, Mr. Trump," Lauer said. "We did run the part where you said he is a war hero. So please don't say that we didn't, because we did."

"Then why did Savannah start off by saying he was not a war hero? I never said that," Trump told the NBC morning show co-host. "I said he was a war hero, Matt. You misrepresent, just like everybody else."

To see the rest of their back and forth, watch the video above.

Meanwhile, McCain appeared on MSNBC's Morning Joe moments later. Asked if Trump owes him an apology, he responded, "No, I don't think so. But I think he may owe an apology to the families of those who have sacrificed in conflict and those who have undergone the prison experience in serving their country."

"A great honor of my life was to serve in the company of heroes," McCain insisted. "I'm not a hero."

Trump avoided service in the Vietnam War through a series of deferments, but McCain chose not to call his lack of service into question. "For me to look back in anger at anyone is nonproductive," he told host Joe Scarborough. "And our country was divided in an almost unprecedented fashion during the Vietnam War, and when I came home I was shocked. So, I've worked ever since to try to heal those wounds."

(E!, NBC and MSNBC are all members of the NBCUniversal family.)

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