Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry on Sunday accused the Obama administration of "over-the-top rhetoric" and "disdain for the military" in its condemnation of a video that purportedly shows four Marines urinating on corpses in Afghanistan.
Perry's comments put him at odds with Sen. John McCain, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, who said the images could damage the war effort.
"The Marine Corps prides itself that we don't lower ourselves to the level of the enemy," McCain said when asked about Perry's position. "So it makes me sad more than anything else, because ... I can't tell you how wonderful these people (Marines) are. And it hurts their reputation and their image."
No one has been charged in the case, but officials in the U.S. and abroad have called for swift punishment of the four Marines. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said last week that he worried the video could be used by the Taliban to undermine peace talks.
A military criminal investigation and an internal Marine Corps review are under way. The Geneva Conventions forbid the desecration of the dead.
Texas Gov. Perry said the Marines involved should be reprimanded but not prosecuted on criminal charges.
"Obviously, 18-, 19-year-old kids make stupid mistakes all too often. And that's what's occurred here," Perry told CNN's "State of the Union."
He later added: "What's really disturbing to me is the kind of over-the-top rhetoric from this administration and their disdain for the military."
Later appearing on the same show, McCain said he disagreed.
"We're trying to win the hearts and minds" of the Afghanistan population, he said. "And when something like that comes up, it obviously harms that ability."