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Trump says "I say what I say" when asked about 2015 McCain comments

President Trump declined an opportunity to apologize for his 2015 comments disparaging the late John McCain, after The Atlantic alleged he had called American service members who died fighting "suckers" and "losers." Mr. Trump has denied the story. 

Fox News confirmed parts of the story shortly before the president's news conference. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Friday strongly denied The Atlantic's report, saying it was based on "four cowardly anonymous sources, who probably do not even exist," and other administration officials also denied the story on the record. 

On Friday afternoon, the president was asked if he regretted his comments that McCain is only a war hero because he was captured, saying he likes people who didn't get captured. The president on Friday turned down the opportunity.

"Look, I say what I say, and I never got along with John McCain ... I wasn't a fan," the president said, adding he "disagreed with many of his views" on wars in the Middle East. 

The president called The Atlantic story "a hoax." He insisted no one ever called him for comment, but The Atlantic says calls made to White House officials for comment were not returned before publication. 

Asked about the absent comments from former White House chief of staff John Kelly, the president blasted the four-star general and insisted he was never up for the job. 

"By the time he got eaten up in this world, he was unable to function and I told him, John, you're going to have to go," the president said, blasting his former top aide. 

Earlier Friday, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper did not directly refute the report, saying only that Mr. Trump "has the highest respect and admiration for our nation's military members, veterans and families. That is why he has fought for greater pay and more funding for our armed forces."

Meanwhile, USA Today reported Friday that the Pentagon plans to shut down the military newspaper Stars and Stripes by September 30. The publication dates back to the Civil War.

Mr. Trump tweeted Friday that the funding to the military newspaper Stars and Stripes will not be cut "under my watch."

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