A November 14 New York Times article by Marc Santora about Sen. John McCain's (R-AZ) response, during a campaign event in Hilton Head, South Carolina, to an audience member, who asked, "How do we beat the bitch?" reported that "McCain has studiously avoided personally attacking Mrs. [Hillary Rodham] Clinton, whom he has said he likes." Santora then quoted from a McCain campaign statement: "Mr. McCain has on many occasions expressed his respect for Senator Clinton [D-NY], just as he did when confronted with the question in South Carolina." However, in reporting that "McCain has studiously avoided personally attacking Mrs. Clinton," Santora ignored McCain's previous smears of Clinton, including naming a dummy "Hillary" during another recent campaign appearance in South Carolina and telling a "disgusting" joke in 1998 for which McCain reportedly apologized to President Bill Clinton.
An October 18 Associated Press article reported that while campaigning in South Carolina, McCain "couldn't resist a swipe at Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton." The article noted that during an appearance at the University of South Carolina Upstate nursing school, "McCain took one look at a nursing school's training mannequin and asked if the dummy's name was Hillary." The article quoted McCain as saying, "I was very glad to meet the dummy, named 'Hillary.' " The story, which the AP labeled the "Play of the Day," was picked up by numerous media outlets, including the New York Daily News, The Washington Post, The Kansas City Star, MSNBC.com, the Houston Chronicle, AOL News, ABCNews.com's The Note, Time.com, and The Boston Globe.
And in 1998, while appearing at a Republican fundraiser, McCain reportedly made what New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd called "his disgusting jape": "Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno."
The November 14 New York Times article in its entirety:
When presidential candidates appear at public forums, passions about the field are often on vivid display. Monday, Senator John McCain received a question from a woman in Hilton Head Island, S.C., that was blunt and harsh.
"How do we beat the bitch?" the woman asked.
Mr. McCain was obviously uncomfortable, trying to deflect the vitriol with humor and offering to give a translation. But he did not condemn the questioner, instead calling it an "excellent question."
He then addressed the question without any apparent doubt as to whom it referred.
"There was a poll yesterday," he said, "that shows me three points ahead of Senator Clinton in a head-to-head matchup. I respect Mrs. Clinton."
The clip began showing on Web sites like Salon.com, the liberal site TPM.com and others, with bloggers asking why Mr. McCain had not taken the questioner to task.
A spokesman for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton declined to comment on Mr. McCain's response. But some of her advisers said they were surprised that he had not defused the moment more artfully, given the possibility that it might stir sympathy or outrage on Mrs. Clinton's behalf in some quarters.
Some of her allies have accused her male Democratic opponents of ganging up on her in their last televised debate.
Mr. McCain has studiously avoided personally attacking Mrs. Clinton, whom he has said he likes. His campaign said yesterday, "Mr. McCain has on many occasions expressed his respect for Senator Clinton, just as he did when confronted with the question in South Carolina."