Wash. Post's Shear falsely claimed "McCain rarely talks about his time as a POW"


In an online chat, The Washington Post's Michael D. Shear asserted, "McCain rarely talks about his time as a POW (though others sometimes do on his behalf.)" In fact, McCain has repeatedly highlighted his experience as a POW, even as he and the media have promoted the notion that he is reluctant to do so.

During a July 1 washingtonpost.com online discussion, Washington Post staff writer Michael D. Shear asserted, "[Sen. John] McCain rarely talks about his time as a POW (though others sometimes do on his behalf.)" In fact, as Media Matters for America has documented, McCain has repeatedly highlighted his experience as a POW, even as he and the media have promoted the notion that he is reluctant to do so.

A reader participating in washingtonpost.com's "Daily Politics Discussion" wrote: "It's not like McCain rose to the level of general or something. He's a vet -- we get it. But simply being a vet, as laudable as it is, doesn't really tell you much about someone's qualifications for being commander in chief. If McCain is going to play the 'I was tortured' card every five minutes as a justification for electing him president, then he shouldn't throw a hissy fit anytime anyone asks to know more about his military experience." Responding, Shear wrote:

Michael D. Shear: I'm not sure that's quite fair. It's true that he was not a general. But McCain rarely talks about his time as a POW (though others sometimes do on his behalf.) And his campaign would argue that his experience in the military prepared him for a career in the Senate that was often at the center of the debates over military policy.

But his military record is certainly a fair target of scrutiny and as a reporter, I'd certainly like to make sure that all of the records are open to the public.

During the Republican primary, numerous McCain campaign advertisements on television and the Internet noted McCain's time as a POW. One ad, a 60-second spot titled "One Man," begins with 27 seconds of footage of McCain being interrogated during his captivity. Additional footage of McCain in captivity appears while a narrator says, "One man sacrificed for his country." Five other McCain campaign ads released between September 2007 and February 2008 include footage of McCain in captivity, including "Tied Up," which showed footage of McCain in Vietnam while audio played of McCain attacking Sen. Hillary Clinton during an October 21, 2007, Republican presidential debate over her support of an earmark for a museum at the site of the original 1969 Woodstock Festival in New York; McCain said he didn't attend the festival because "I was tied up at the time."

A 12-minute video posted on McCain's campaign website titled "Courageous Service" also begins with the 27-second clip of McCain being interrogated while being held captive. Later in the video, McCain discussed the circumstances of his capture and subsequent captivity in North Vietnam. The video also includes footage of McCain discussing his captivity during a campaign event.

McCain has also highlighted his POW experience since clinching the Republican nomination. For instance, on March 27, McCain's campaign released its first general election television ad. The ad -- titled "624787," his Navy serial number -- highlights McCain's military experience by airing footage of him as a POW in Vietnam. Soon after, on March 31, McCain began a five-day, six-city "Service to America Tour," during which McCain visited various locations that related to his and his family's military history. The tour was launched in Meridian, Mississippi, "[h]ome of McCain Field named after John McCain's grandfather, an admiral in the U.S. Navy." During his speech in Meridian, McCain recounted his father's service in the Navy and mentioned his own experience as "a prisoner of war in Hanoi":

McCAIN: During the Vietnam War, he commanded all U.S. forces in the Pacific, at the top of a chain of command that included, near the bottom, his son, a naval aviator on Yankee Station in the Tonkin Gulf, and later a prisoner of war in Hanoi. My father seldom spoke of my captivity to anyone outside the family, and never in public. He prayed on his knees every night for my safe return. He would spend holidays with the troops in Vietnam, near the DMZ. At the end of his visit, he would walk alone to the base perimeter, and look north toward the city where I was held. Yet, when duty required it, he gave the order for B-52s to bomb Hanoi, in close proximity to my prison. [emphasis added]

During the tour, McCain also visited Jacksonville, Florida, which his campaign described as "[h]ome of John McCain base before his deployment to Vietnam and following his return after 5 years as a POW." During his speech in Jacksonville, McCain again referred to his experience as a prisoner of war:

McCAIN: The quality of persevering for your own sake, for your reputation or your sense of personal honor is good but over valued. Persevering with others for a common goal is not only more satisfying in the end, but teaches you something about life you might not have known before, and can influence your direction in ways your own fortitude never could. I once thought I was man enough for almost any confrontation. In prison, I discovered I was not. I tried to use every personal resource I had to confound my captors, and it wasn't enough in the end. But when I had reached the limit of my endurance, the men I had the honor of serving with picked me up, set me right, and sent me back into the fight. I became dependent on others to a greater extent than I had ever been before. And I am a better man for it. We had met a power that wanted to obliterate our identities, and the cause to which we rallied was our response: we are free men, bound inseparably together, and by the grace of God and not your sufferance we will have our freedom restored to us. I have never felt more powerfully free, more my own man, than when I was a small part of an organized resistance to the power that imprisoned us. [emphasis added]

Additionally, as Media Matters has repeatedly documented, McCain's experience as a POW in Vietnam played a prominent role in his failed 2000 presidential campaign and was used in his campaign advertisements and stump speeches.

The Washington Post
Michael Shear
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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