John McCain invokes his POW past to scoff at Spicer's call for an apology over Yemen raid criticism
Senator John McCain (AFP Photo/Chip Somodevilla)

Vietnam War hero Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on Wednesday blasted Sean Spicer after the White House press secretary insisted critics of the botched U.S. raid in Yemen were doing a “disservice” to the Navy SEAL who was killed in the conflict.

“Many years ago, when I was imprisoned in North Vietnam, there was an attempt to rescue the POWs,” McCain told NBC News, referencing his nearly six year captivity during the Vietnam War. “Unfortunately, the prison had been evacuated, but the brave men who risked their lives in an effort to rescue us prisoners of war were genuine American heroes."

“Because the mission failed did not in any way diminish their courage and willingness to help their fellow Americans who were held captive,” McCain added. “Mr. Spicer should know that story.”

McCain was responding to Spicer’s argument Wednesday that anyone questioning the Yakla raid last month, which resulted in the death of Chief Petty Officer William "Ryan?"Owens.

“The life of chief Ryan Owens was done in service to his country and we owe him and his family a great debt for the information we received during that raid,” Spicer said at a press conference Wednesday. “Any suggestion otherwise is a disservice to his courageous life and the actions he took. Full stop.”

McCain had previously criticized the Trump administration's characterization of the raid as a “success.

"While many of the objectives of the recent raid in Yemen were met, I would not describe any operation that results in the loss of American life as a success,” McCain said in a statement Tuesday.

This isn’t the first time McCain’s POW status has come up in a rift between the Arizona Republican and the president. In July 2015, during the Republican primaries, Trump refused to refer to McCain as a war hero.

“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said at the time. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

McCain was captured by the North Vietnamese in October 1967 and remained a prisoner of war until 1973; he declined an offer for early release, citing the military Code of Conduct, which said officers must be freed in the order they were captured. North Vietnamese soldiers tortured him for his refusal.