On 5 May 2018, both the New York Times and NBC News published separate articles reporting that 81-year-old Senator John McCain of Arizona, who was suffering from brain cancer, didn’t want President Donald Trump to attend his funeral, but he did want former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush there to deliver eulogies. Both the Times and NBC cited unnamed sources close to McCain, which we were unable to independently corroborate. Tellingly, however, neither McCain nor his immediate family challenged the accuracy of the reports.
The Times reported on the subject as follows:
The Republican senator encouraged the former Democratic vice president to “not walk away” from politics, as Mr. Biden put it before refusing to discuss a possible 2020 presidential run. Mr. McCain is using a new book and documentary to reveal his regret about not selecting former Senator Joseph I. Lieberman as his running mate in 2008. His intimates have informed the White House that their current plan for his funeral is for Vice President Mike Pence to attend the service to be held in Washington’s National Cathedral but not President Trump, with whom Mr. McCain has had a rocky relationship.
NBC News stated that “Former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush plan to be eulogists at McCain’s funeral service, which is to be held at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., the source close to McCain said.:
We reached out to a spokeswoman for McCain and the White House Press Office with questions about these reports and received no response from either. We also reached out to the personal offices of former presidents Obama and Bush and did not receive any responses.
However it is no secret that McCain and Trump were never been on the best of terms. While still on the campaign trail in 2015, Trump said McCain, a Navy pilot during the Vietnam War who was captured and held prisoner for six years, wasn’t a war hero because “I like people that weren’t captured.” Trump meanwhile never served, having received several draft deferments.
In September 2017, Axios reported that Trump, who was angry at a Senate vote by McCain which prevented a key portion of President Obama’s healthcare plan from being rolled back, had taken to physically mocking him, prompting McCain’s daughter to lash out on Twitter:
What more must my family be put through right now? This is abhorrent. https://t.co/xJmFdh93xL
— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) September 27, 2017
McCain revealed in July 2017 that he had been diagnosed with an aggressive and deadly form of brain cancer known as glioblastoma. According to news reports, he was resting at his family ranch in Arizona in early May and discussing the eventuality of his passing in light of his serious illness.
In April 2018, President Trump did not attend former First Lady Barbara Bush’s funeral out of concern for creating a distraction “due to added security,” but rumors circulated that he had been ordered to stay away from the service because of his sour relationship with the Bush family. We found no evidence of such an order. First Lady Melania Trump attended the funeral in his stead.
Upon Senator McCain’s death in August 2018, CBS News reiterated that McCain’s family had requested that President Trump not attend his funeral, that former presidents Obama and Bush would be eulogizing him, and that Vice President Pence (rather than President Trump) was expected to represent the executive branch at his services:
John McCain requested that former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush deliver eulogies at his funeral, CBS News has confirmed. McCain, who had been suffering from an aggressive form of brain cancer, died at the age of 81 at home in Arizona. Both Mr. Obama and Mr. Bush will deliver their remarks during a service at the National Cathedral.
Former Vice President Joe Biden will speak at a separate service honoring the senator in Arizona.
McCain had long feuded with President Trump and, according to The Associated Press, two White House officials said McCain’s family had asked, before the senator’s death, that Mr. Trump not attend the funeral services. Vice President Pence is likely to attend, said the officials, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
The New York Times says, “Mr. McCain quietly declared before his death that he did not want Mr. Trump to take part in his funeral.”