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The news that Gina Haspel could become the next CIA director and with a White House staffer recently mocking Sen. John McCain, that has brought reminders of President Donald Trump blasting McCain for becoming a prisoner of war.
While appearing with HBO’s Bill Maher on Friday, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) was asked how long Trump, a proponent of enhanced interrogation and waterboarding, would last under torture. Hunter, a veteran who served three overseas tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, wasn’t generous with his answer.
“Not very long,” Hunter deadpanned.
Responded Maher: “He’d probably torture his torturers, talking about the election.”
Hunter, an early Trump supporter, didn’t say anything to that, but he did allow himself a chuckle at the joke.
Maher asked Hunter if he was bothered that others were making fun of a fellow veteran like McCain—including Trump’s off-the-cuff remark in 2015 that he didn’t consider McCain a war hero because “I like people who weren’t captured”—was acceptable.
“I’ve made the same John McCain joke with my friends, who are other Marines,” Hunter said. ‘If I were a better pilot, I wouldn’t get shot down.’ … I’ve made that joke. But I make it to my friends, not on national TV as the contender for the U.S. presidency. It shouldn’t be done.”
Haspel is in a position to be confirmed to the top CIA position by the Senate, and during her confirmation hearing this week, she was asked about the agency’s previous use of torture. Haspel—who once ran a detention site in Thailand where a suspected terrorist was waterboarded a number of times and who later allegedly played a large role in destroying interrogation tapes from suspected black sites—said the CIA, under her leadership, would never restart an enhanced interrogation program.
Meanwhile, White House staffer Kelly Sadler this week dismissed a potential vote by McCain and jokingly said, “He’s dying anyway.”
Also this week, a Fox contributor referred to McCain, who spent more than five years in Vietnam as a POW who was tortured, as “Songbird McCain.”
Hunter told Maher that was a rotten thing to say.
Josh Katzowitz is a staff writer at the Daily Dot specializing in YouTube and boxing. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. A longtime sports writer, he's covered the NFL for CBSSports.com and boxing for Forbes. His work has been noted twice in the Best American Sports Writing book series.