1. Confederate Flag Over South Carolina Capitol, April 19, 2000
During the run-up to the South Carolina Republican primary in February 2000, McCain was asked whether he felt the Confederate flag should be removed from atop the statehouse.
Non-truth: McCain stated publicly that it was up to South Carolinians to decide.
Truth: Two months later McCain said he believed “the flag should be removed” from the Capitol. “I feared that if I answered honestly, I could not win the South Carolina primary. So I chose to compromise my principles,” he said. “I broke my promise to always tell the truth.”
Source: “Excerpts from McCain’s Remarks on Confederate Flag,” New York Times, April 20, 2000.
2. Economics Expertise, Jan. 27, 2008
Non-truth: When confronted with his own remarks about his economic prowess during a Republican primary debate, McCain said, “I don’t know where you got that quote from. I’m very well versed in economics.” In a later interview on NBC, McCain added that he’s “very strong on the economy.”
Truth: McCain was asked about a quote he gave The Wall Street Journal in a November 2005 interview in which he admitted he lacked expertise on economic issues. The quote read: “I’m going to be honest: I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues. … I still need to be educated.”
McCain told reporters in December 2007, “The issue of economics is not something I’ve understood as well as I should.”
Sources: “‘Reform. Reform. Reform.’ John McCain Explains His Eclectic–and Troubling–Economic Philosophy,” Wall Street Journal, Nov. 26, 2005; NBC GOP presidential debate exchange, Jan. 24, 2008; “Meet the Press,” NBC, Jan. 27, 2008.
3. Safety in Baghdad, March 26, 2007
Non-truth: During an April 2007 visit to Baghdad, McCain said in interviews that “General (David) Petraeus goes out there (in Baghdad) almost every day in an unarmored Humvee.” He also said, “There are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk through those neighborhoods today.”
Truth: There are no unarmored Humvees in Iraq. McCain later admitted that he had misspoken regarding public safety in Baghdad. “Of course, I am going to misspeak and I’ve done it on numerous occasions and I probably will do it in the future,” he said. “I regret that when I divert attention to something I said from my message, but you know, that’s just life.”
Sources: “McCain Misspoke on Baghdad Security, He Says,” New York Times, April 8, 2007; “60 Minutes,” CBS, April 8, 2007.
4. Abortion Stance, Aug. 19, 1999
Non-truth: McCain told The San Francisco Chronicle that “in the short-term or even in the long-term I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations.”
Truth: McCain soon after released a statement saying that he has always opposed Roe v. Wade and “as president, I would work toward its repeal.” McCain has a near 0 percent lifetime rating from NARAL, a national abortion rights group.
Sources: “McCain Softens Abortion Stand,” Washington Post, Aug. 24, 1999; “Capital Gang,” CNN, Aug. 28, 1999.
5. Conversation with Kerry, May 15, 2004
During the 2004 presidential campaign, speculation was widespread that Sen. John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee, had asked McCain to join him as his running mate in the general election.
Non-truth: McCain told The New York Times that Kerry made no such offer, and when asked whether the two had ever discussed the possibility, even casually, McCain said, after pausing, “No. We really haven’t.”
Truth: McCain was asked again in 2008 about his reported conversation with Kerry, and told The New York Times, “I mean it’s well known. Everybody knows, it’s been well chronicled a thousand times that John Kerry asked if I would consider being his running mate.”
Sources: “Undeterred by McCain Denials, Some See Him as Kerry’s No. 2,” New York Times, May 15, 2004; “McCain Asked About 2004 Conversation with Kerry,” New York Times, March 7, 2008.
6. Al Qaeda and Iran, March 18, 2008
During a March 2008 visit to Jordan, McCain aired his concerns about ties between Al Qaeda and Iran.
Non-truth: McCain said that it was “common knowledge and has been reported in the media that Al Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran.”
Truth: McCain had to be corrected a moment later by his Senate colleague Joseph Lieberman, and quickly amended his statement. “I’m sorry, the Iranians are training extremists, not Al Qaeda,” he said. McCain also made a similar comment a day earlier on the Hugh Hewitt radio show. It went uncorrected.
Sources: “A McCain Gaffe in Jordan,” Washington Post, March 18 2008; “John McCain on Iraq, Iran and the Middle East from Amman, Jordan,” The Hugh Hewitt Radio Show, March 17, 2008.
7. Ties to Lobbying Firms, Feb. 21, 2008
The New York Times published a story about McCain’s connections to Vicki Iseman, a lobbyist for the firm Alcalde & Fay. The Times reported that McCain had written to the FCC at Iseman’s behest to aid one of her clients, Paxson Communications.
Non-Truth: McCain’s campaign wrote in an e-mail to reporters, “No representative of Paxson or Alcalde & Fay personally asked Senator McCain to send a letter to the FCC.”
Truth: McCain gave a sworn deposition five years earlier in which he said, “I was contacted by Mr. Paxson on this issue. . . . I’m sure I spoke with him, yes.”
Sources: “For McCain, Self-Confidence on Ethics Poses Its Own Risk,” New York Times, Feb. 21, 2008; “A Hole in McCain’s Defense?” Newsweek, Feb. 22, 2008.
8. Attack Ads, Feb. 23, 2000
During the run-up to the Michigan primary in February 2000, the McCain campaign sponsored a telephone campaign that painted George W. Bush as an anti-Catholic bigot for courting the support of the evangelical Bob Jones University in South Carolina.
Non-truth: McCain denied to reporters that his campaign had anything to do with the calls.
Truth: McCain later admitted under repeated questioning that his campaign was responsible for the calls, but that their content had been so mischaracterized by the press that he did not recognize the calls as his own.