Not since funnyman Don Rickles was in his heyday have so many big names been so publicly insulted as they have been by the current king of the cutting remark, Donald Trump.
But when Rickles famously called out to Sinatra as he entered a club where the comedian was performing with “Make yourself comfortable, Frank, hit somebody,” he was kidding. And his entertainment pals loved being roasted.
Trump’s insults – usually delivered with red-faced indignation – are no jokes, and often are vicious jabs at fellow Republicans.
Still, some of these pols, wary of being rejected at the polls by Trump supporters, are sucking it up and endorsing their tormentor. In other words, doing and saying anything to get re-elected – exactly the sort of behavior that angers so many voters.
Among those pilloried by Trump but backing him in November -- or on the verge of doing so -- are:
1. Senator John McCain of Arizona
Last July, Trump scoffed at the 5 ½ years McCain spent in a North Vietnamese prisoner of war camp after his Navy plane was shot down. “He’s not a war hero,” Trump told a crowd in Iowa, “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
Despite significant policy difference with Trump on immigration, free trade and overseas interventions, the 79-year-old senator has lined up with his party’s presumptive nominee.
2. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker
Last November, Trump tweeted about his Walker, who dropped out of the GOP primary race: “@CharlesGKoch is looking for a new puppet after Governor Walker and Jeb Bush cratered,” “not presidential material,” “not smart.” He now likes Rubio--next fail.” In early May, Walker said he would support Trump as he pledged to do at the start of the Republican primary contest.
3. New Mexico Governor Susanna Martinez
On May 29 at a campaign stop in Albuquerque, Trump criticized Martinez’ performance. "Hey! Maybe I’ll run for governor of New Mexico. I’ll get this place going. She’s not doing the job. We’ve got to get her moving. Come on: Let’s go, governor.” A spokesperson for Martinez said on June 3 that she is looking forward to meeting with Trump in the near future. And Trump now says he respects her and would like her endorsement.
4. Florida Senator Marco Rubio
Trump’s most lethal insults in the Republican primaries were aimed at Texas Senator Ted Cruz, whom he labeled “Lyin’ Ted” and who has not yet endorsed him, and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, whom he called a “fraud lightweight…who looks like a little boy on stage.” Rubio now says he will release his delegates to Trump and is willing to speak in favor of his former rival at the Republican National Convention.
5. Dr. Ben Carson
Last October, Trump tweeted about his then rival for the Republican presidential nomination, a renowned neurosurgeon: “incapable of understanding foreign policy,” “very weak on illegal immigration,” “many lies by Ben Carson.” “Ben Carson has never created a job in his life (well, maybe a nurse).” I have created tens of thousands of jobs, it's what I do.” In March, Carson endorsed Trump, calling him “the voice of the people to be heard.”
6. House Speaker Paul Ryan
On Mar. 1, after Ryan criticized Trump for not immediately distancing himself from white supremacist David Duke, Trump said: “Paul Ryan, I don’t know him well, but I’m sure I’m going to get along great with him, and if I don’t? He’s gonna have to pay a big price, OK?” Then when Ryan said in early May that he wasn’t ready to endorse Trump, the billionaire businessman shot back: “I am not ready to support Speaker Ryan’s agenda. Perhaps in the future we can work together and come to an agreement about what is best for the American people. They have been treated so badly for so long that it is about time for politicians to put them first!” On June 2 in an op-ed, Ryan said he is voting for Trump.
Update: Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has been removed from this list after he called on his fellow Republicans to rescind their endorsements in the wake of Donald Trump's comments questioning the fairness of Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel of Federal District Court.