“The bottom line is, it’s not a funny joke and you’re not helping yourself,” Graham, speaking to reporters following a meeting with the President at the White House, said he told Trump.
Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said that there’s “no personal animosity” between Trump and Dingell, arguing that Trump had “made sure” that Dingell was “honored as being one of the greatest members of the House ever” with a full military funeral.
“I can understand being frustrated, but Mr. President, pull us together as a country. This joke does not help. It is not funny in my view,” Graham said.
Asked how Trump reacted, Graham said, “he’s going to decide how to conduct himself in that regard” noting that Trump has “said this joke about several people, not just John Dingell.”
“I want you to be successful but I’m not going to tell you things I don’t believe. It’s not funny,” Graham said he told the President.
Graham’s response is notable not just because of his close ties with Trump, but because congressional Republicans rarely criticize the President, including in the aftermath of his swipe at Dingell, a longtime colleague.
Dingell’s fellow Michigan representative, Republican Rep. Fred Upton, said late Wednesday night that “there was no need to ‘dis’ him in a crass political way. Most unfortunate and an apology is due.”
CNN’s Devan Cole contributed to this report.