Donald Trump's Kids Defend Their Dad to PEOPLE: 'We Love and Respect Him Very Much'
07/21/2015 AT 12:30 PM EDT
But the 69-year-old media mogul still has support from the people who matter most: his children. "Our father, Donald J. Trump is a true visionary and a great mentor," Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric Trump tell PEOPLE in an exclusive statement. (All three Trump offspring have contributed to both Democratic and Republican campaigns in the past. Ivanka's husband, Jared Kushner, has been a major contributor to the Democratic Party, having given more than $100,000 over the years.)
The statement continues: "He is a brilliant negotiator with a proven track record of getting things done. Most importantly, he is an incredible dad and role model. He raised us to work hard and strive for excellence in all that we do.
"We love and respect him very much," the statement concludes.
While announcing his bid for president, Trump described Mexican immigrants as "rapists" who are "bringing drugs" and "bringing crime" to the United States.
The remarks led Univision and NBC to drop the Miss USA pageant and Trump altogether.
Then, during a question-and-answer session at the Iowa Family Leadership Summit on Saturday, Trump disagreed with moderator Frank Luntz's description of McCain, 78, as a war hero.
"He's not a war hero," said Trump. "He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured."
The harsh comments were immediately slammed by the Republican National Committee and nearly every candidate in the 2016 presidential field.
"Sen. McCain is an American hero because he served his country and sacrificed more than most can imagine," said Sean Spicer, chief strategist for the RNC, in a news release. "There is no place in our party or our country for comments that disparage those who have served honorably."
McCain, who spent nearly six years as a prisoner of war at the Hoa Ló Prison in Vietnam, where he was repeatedly tortured, later said that while he does not feel he is owed an apology, he thinks Trump may owe one "to the families of those who have sacrificed in conflict and those who have undergone the prison experience in serving our country."
A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, administered prior to Trump's comments about McCain, shows that he leads the crowded GOP field with 24 percent support among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who are registered to vote. The next closest candidate is Scott Walker, with just 13 percent.