(CNN) — Former Republican presidential nominees Bob Dole and John McCain are pushing back against Sen. Ted Cruz for comments he made Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
As Cruz was talking about how the Republican Party had not been successful in recent campaigns and what it needed to do to win, he said if "you want to lose elections, stand for nothing."
Then noting in 2010 how Republicans had won the House back with its emphasis on opposition to Obamcare, the Texas Republican added "Of course, all of us remember President Dole and President McCain and President Romney. Now look those are good men, they're decent men. But when you don't stand and draw a clear distinction, when you don't stand for principle, Democrats celebrate."
Dole, the 1996 nominee, told CNN Friday that "Senator Cruz needs to check the record before passing judgment."
McCain, the 2008 nominee, told MSNBC Friday that he asked Cruz to apologize to Dole. "I talked to him on the floor. I talked to him on the floor, and I said exactly what I'm telling you I said."
"(Cruz) can say what he wants about me, and he can say anything he wants to," McCain continued. "But when he throws Bob Dole in there, I wonder if he thinks that Bob Dole stood for principle on that hilltop in Italy when he was so gravely wounded and left part of his body there fighting for country," McCain also said.
Cruz's spokeswoman, Catherine Frazier, reacted to the calls for an apology.
"As he noted in his speech, the Senator greatly respects these men, particularly the heroic military service of Sens. Dole and McCain," she said in a statement. "Suggesting anything otherwise is just an unnecessary distraction. He will not hesitate to talk about substantive matters of conservative principle that are important to bringing Republicans to victory -- even if others may disagree."