An Old John McCain Scandal Takes a Turn

Once-loyal ally Steve Schmidt is now at odds with the McCain family
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 10, 2022 10:10 AM CDT
An Old John McCain Scandal Takes a Turn
This 2008 photo shows Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., talking to reporters with senior adviser Steve Schmidt, right, on a campaign flight. At center is wife Cindy McCain.   (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The name John McCain has been in the headlines a lot in the last few days, as has that of his once-loyal adviser, Steve Schmidt, along with McCain's daughter, Meghan. There's a lot to unpack in explaining why, but if you want a shorthand version, the headline at New York magazine might suffice: "Steve Schmidt Goes to War With the McCain Family." It's not exactly an exaggeration:

  • Against Meghan: Schmidt got this ball rolling in responding to reports (see the Washington Examiner) that Meghan McCain's new memoir, Bad Republican, had flopped, with fewer than 300 copies sold in the first few days. "I can explain this," Schmidt wrote at the start of a long Twitter diatribe, one in which he called Meghan a "spoiled rotten, entitled bully" and a "fourth generation wannabe," per the Daily Beast.

  • Against John: But the bigger news came later, when Schmidt wrote in a Substack blog post that John McCain had lied to the American public about having an affair with a lobbyist. "John McCain told me the truth backstage at an event in Ohio," wrote Schmidt. "Understandably, he was very concerned about this potentially campaign-ending issue. He kept saying, 'The campaign is over.'" It wasn't, however. "The burden of carrying this lie—while being attacked for 14 consecutive years by the bully Meghan McCain—has finally reached its end for me," Schmidt writes.
  • Initial denial: In 2008, the New York Times wrote a story that suggested (without explicitly saying so) that McCain was in a long-term romantic relationship with the female lobbyist. McCain and wife Cindy forcefully (and successfully) labeled the story as untrue. "Immediately following the story's publication, John and Cindy McCain both lied to the American people," Schmidt wrote. "Ultimately, John McCain's lie became mine." In his blog post, he apologized to the Times reporters.
  • Why now: Schmidt tells Axios that he's speaking up to defend his name in regard to his old McCain ties, specifically because he feels he's been unfairly blamed for McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as running mate. In his blog post, Schmidt writes that McCain became "terrified of the creature that he had created" in Palin, and he blames McCain's reluctance to confront her for helping steer the GOP onto what he sees as the wrong path.
  • Response: Neither Meghan nor Cindy McCain has responded publicly to Schmidt's allegations. Meghan, however, called coverage of her book's sales misleading, pointing out in a tweet that the audio version reached No. 2 on Audible.
(More John McCain stories.)

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