ABC's Moran falsely asserted McCain takes "all questions," ignored flip-flops

››› ››› BEN ARMBRUSTER

On the March 26 edition of ABC's Nightline, co-host Terry Moran reported on presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on "the campaign trail" in New Hampshire, asserting that "everywhere he goes, McCain takes on all comers, all questions" and stating that McCain "play[s] it as straight as possible [with a] directness that still startles." But Moran made no mention of McCain's recent stumbles on questions about contraception and HIV prevention and his refusal to comment on a question regarding homosexuality. According to a New York Times report, McCain admitted that he was "stumped" by questions on whether he believes "contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV" and whether he supports "the distribution of taxpayer-subsidized condoms in Africa to fight the transmission of H.I.V." He told the reporters who asked them: "You know, I'm sure I've taken a position on it on the past. I have to find out what my position was." Also according to the Times, McCain "declined to say whether he agreed with the assertion by Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that homosexuality is immoral."

Moran also said that McCain has been "unyielding" in his position on Iraq and aired a clip of McCain claiming that "on literally every issue," his positions "haven't changed." In fact, McCain has been inconsistent on a number of issues, as Media Matters for America has repeatedly noted, including the Iraq war. McCain has also reversed himself on other issues, such as his characterization during the 2000 presidential campaign of Rev. Jerry Falwell as an "agent of intolerance."

Moran reported that "McCain backed the war from the start, has called for sending more troops to Iraq ever since, and strongly supports Bush's surge of troops to Baghdad now." Moran then aired a clip of McCain:

McCAIN: Second, there's a little irony that I was the greatest critic of the way the war was mismanaged. But life isn't fair.

Moran then added: "That's pure John McCain. Blunt, unyielding, deploying his principles as political weapons." Moran did not mention McCain's inconsistent statements on the Iraq war, as Media Matters has noted. While McCain has assailed the White House's execution of the war, he has also asserted that the United States is on "the right course" in Iraq, said that President Bush "has a good team around him" on national security issues, and, as recently as August 2006, expressed his confidence in Bush's ability to "lead the war."

Moran also said that McCain "has had a running feud with many on the right wing of the Republican Party, who see his maverick ways as a kind of treason to first principles. So this time around, he's reached out ... to evangelical leaders like Jerry Falwell, and to others on the right." Moran then aired a clip of McCain "bristl[ing] at the notion that he's changed his positions":

McCAIN: If you look at my positions on literally every issue, I haven't changed. I'm no different from what I was. And that's a tiny bit frustrating to me that this portrayal -- "Well, he's pandered to this or done that." I don't do that.

Even as Moran acknowledged that McCain is now reaching out to the Christian right -- in contrast with his actions during the 2000 campaign -- Moran insisted that McCain "does ... what he's always done, play it as straight as possible. A directness that still startles."

McCain has also changed his position on abortion and other social issues, and most recently, according to a March 20 New York Times article, revised his position on immigration:

As he left Iowa, Mr. McCain said he was reconsidering his views on how the immigration law might be changed. He said he was open to legislation that would require people who came to the United States illegally to return home before applying for citizenship, a measure proposed by Representative Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana. Mr. McCain has previously favored legislation that would allow most illegal immigrants to become citizens without leaving the country.

Nonetheless, Moran concluded his report by saying: "The maverick candidate still. John McCain."

From the March 26 edition of ABC's Nightline:

MORAN: I've just returned from New Hampshire, where I hit the campaign trail with Senator John McCain. He's taken some pretty controversial positions in his fight to be the GOP candidate for president, most notably his strong support for the troop surge in Iraq and the war in general. As we spoke, he was confident, determined, above all, direct. But could that controversial stance on the war derail the "Straight Talk Express"? I spent the day with him for the latest installment of our series "The Contenders."

MORAN: John McCain is back on the bus. Back in his element, talking.

McCAIN: I want the war over. But you'd have to explain -- and no one has yet explained who holds that view how [Sen.] Joe Lieberman [I-CT] was re-elected in the state of Connecticut.

[...]

MORAN: And everywhere he goes, McCain takes on all comers, all questions. A rolling no-holds-barred political free-for-all, unlike most other American campaigns these days.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: What direct words do you have for the president of Iran?

MORAN: How long can the country fight a war that the people don't really support?

[...]

MORAN: You almost feel as if it could be 2000 again, when he was the maverick outsider riding a lightning-bolt connection to the American political psyche when it all seemed so natural, so much fun. But then, open your eyes. There's one huge difference this time around.

McCAIN: The fact is, I know that the war in Iraq has been long and it's been hard and it's been difficult and it's been frustrating. And all of us agonize.

MORAN: Iraq shadows John McCain's campaign this year like a storm cloud. McCain backed the war from the start, has called for sending more troops to Iraq ever since, and strongly supports Bush's surge of troops to Baghdad now. And he is utterly unapologetic about it.

MORAN: Is the fact that you've been so supportive of President Bush -- is really that a liability for you?

McCAIN: Sure.

MORAN: That you're joined at the hip with the president?

McCAIN: Sure.

MORAN: He's in 30 percent in the polls.

McCAIN: Sure. But, one, you've got to do what's right. Second, there's a little irony that I was the greatest critic of the way the war was mismanaged. But life isn't fair. There's so much at stake here in this conflict that, you know, I really must do what's right, Terry. I have no choice. Nor would I consider any other choice.

MORAN: "No other choice." That's pure John McCain. Blunt, unyielding, deploying his principles as political weapons. But he freely admits, this time, it could cost him the race.

[...]

MORAN: He stopped at a gun shop to check the merchandise and shore up his conservative credentials. No harm with voters here, having your picture taken brandishing a weapon. McCain has had a running feud with many on the right wing of the Republican Party, who see his maverick ways as a kind of treason to first principles. So this time around, he's reached out to the NRA, to evangelical leaders like Jerry Falwell, and to others on the right. But he bristles at the notion that he's changed his positions.

Not moving to the right, not recalibrating?

McCAIN: If you look at my positions on literally every issue, I haven't changed. I'm no different from what I was. And that's a tiny bit frustrating to me that this portrayal -- "Well, he's pandered to this or done that." I don't do that.

MORAN: What he does do is what he's always done, play it as straight as possible. A directness that still startles. Listen to what he says about the scandal surrounding the treatment of wounded Iraq war veterans.

When you heard about what was going on at Walter Reed, what was your reaction?

McCAIN: Embarrassment. Embarrassment and shame. That we, as a nation, would be allowing such a thing to happen. And frankly, embarrassment that I didn't know about it because I'm a frequent visitor there. And it's my responsibility to know about it.

MORAN: Do you think you bear some personal responsibility for what happened at Walter Reed?

McCAIN: Sure. Sure, absolutely. Absolutely. And I think that it may appropriately make people think a little less of me.

MORAN: Only a truly confident or cagey politician would invite voters to think less of him. But McCain has branded himself as a man whose personal experience of war, shot down in Vietnam 40 years ago, held prisoner and tortured for five years, equips him now to face anything life can throw at him.

[...]

McCAIN: I'm the same person. A little smarter. Not a lot smarter. But a little smarter. And I am exactly the same person. And how do I convince people and counter that kind of insidious, in my view, insidious thing that circulates around is come and look you in the eye and tell you again who I am, what I am, what I stand for, and what I believe in. And I believe I can overcome this idiotic, unfair, frankly, comments about whether I've changed or not. I'm not changing, my dear friends.

MORAN: The maverick candidate still. John McCain.

Network/Outlet
ABC
Person
Terry Moran
Show/Publication
Nightline
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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