2 veterans groups plan to pass out McCain T-shirts at Trump's July 4 celebration
WASHINGTON – Two military veterans groups are planning to hand out T-shirts "to honor the military service and sacrifice" of the family of the late Sen. John McCain at the upcoming Fourth of July celebration on the National Mall where President Donald Trump plans to deliver an address.
VoteVets – a liberal political action committee that almost exclusively backs Democratic candidates, according to OpenSecrets – is teaming up with Rags of Honor – a screen printing shop that employs homeless veterans – to give out the "Big Bad John" shirts depicting the USS John S. McCain.
That ship was at the center of a recent controversy after it was revealed that the Navy was asked to move the destroyer bearing the Arizona Republican's name when Trump visited Japan last month.
Then-acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said the White House military liaison had asked that the 7th fleet hide the ship from Trump – who was outspoken in his criticism of McCain even after the veteran of the Vietnam War was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer – but the Navy ignored the request.
If you are interested in volunteering to help distribute these shirts with veterans on the Fourth of July in Washington, DC please visit our @countable action center - and a special thank you to @countable for all of their help and support: https://t.co/UGRra5RmIJ pic.twitter.com/pljS8CvzcP— RagsOfHonorUSA (@RagsOfHonorUSA) June 22, 2019
"Somebody did it because they thought I didn't like him, OK?" Trump told reporters when asked about the request. "And they were well-meaning."
"I didn't know anything about it. I would never have done that."
Launched in 1994, the USS John S. McCain was initially named for the senator's father and grandfather, both highly decorated admirals in the Navy. A month before the younger McCain's death last year, the Pentagon added him as a namesake of the ship.
The two veterans groups behind the campaign said in a statement that the shirts will be given out by veterans to people taking part in the festivities on the National Mall. They said the shirts will also be given to members of Congress at the House and Senate office buildings on Capitol Hill.
The White House has announced that Trump will be at the center of this year's Fourth of July celebration in Washington, delivering an address at the Lincoln Memorial as part of a "Salute to America."
Critics have objected to Trump injecting himself into what is traditionally a nonpartisan celebration and noted the last sitting president to do so was Richard Nixon in 1970.
"Whether it was Sen. McCain, his father, his grandfather or his sons, the McCain family has given more to this country than most, and America’s birthday seems like a great time to honor that service and sacrifice," Rags of Honor founder Mark Doyle said in a statement. "After all, people like them – and there aren’t many – made these kinds of celebrations possible."
"While VoteVets and John McCain never much saw eye-to-eye on policy, and probably still would not if he was around today, his family’s service to America spoke to that sense of realizing this nation is bigger than just one man. Honoring that kind legacy –especially of a political opponent’s – seemed fitting for July 4," said VoteVets chairman Jon Soltz.
Contributing: David Jackson, John Fritze, Nicholas Wu and Ledyard King
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 2 veterans groups plan to pass out McCain T-shirts at Trump's July 4 celebration