The Anatomy of a Deception: How The McCains Changed Their Baby Adoption Story Just Before 2008 Campaign Began

Mark Nickolas

August 21, 2008


As was pointed out yesterday by the Christian Science Monitor, the McCain campaign was called out for lying about the purported urging of Cindy McCain by Mother Teresa herself to adopt two children at her orphanage back in 1991. Turns out, McCain never met or even spoke with Mother Teresa on that trip.

Once confronted by the Monitor about the deception, the campaign quickly erased such claims from the website, as it did with Cindy’s family recipes, which were proved to be lifted from the Food Network.

But after doing some research, this deception was no careless accident, but rather another shameless and deliberate attempt by the campaign to reinvent and embellish the McCain family history in time for his 2008 presidential bid.

Here’s how the McCain adoption was described by them prior to the 2008 presidential race:

Newsweek (Nov. 15, 1999, Cindy McCain’s Own Story):

On finding a child while running a relief mission to Bangladesh in 1991:

I was working in Dhaka, and a friend of mine from Arizona had said to me, Look, while you’re there, do me a favor. Mother Teresa has an orphanage in Dhaka. Would you mind seeing if they need any help? And I said, Sure. We finally found the orphanage, and we saw 150 newborns on one floor. And a lot of them were sick. And the nuns said, [This little girl with a cleft palate]–can’t you take her and get her medical help? And I thought, well, sure I can, I can do that.

CNBC (Feb 12, 2000, Tim Russert Interview with the McCains):

Mrs. McCAIN: She’s–our daughter Bridget is eight years old. I found her in Mother Teresa’s orphanage when she was 10 weeks old in Bangladesh. She has a cleft palate; she had some other problems. And the nuns persuaded me to bring her home, and I did. I–I could do that. I was able to do that. And literally on board the flight home from Bangkok to Los Angeles, not having spoken to my husband, I decided I couldn’t c–I had to–I couldn’t let her go. I had–she chose me. So she’s ours now. I came home and presented my husband with a new daughter that he didn’t know he had.

Vanity Fair (November 2004, The Trashing of John McCain):

In 1991, when Cindy McCain was on a relief mission to Bangladesh, she was asked by one of Mother Teresa’s nuns to help a young orphan with a cleft palate. Flying her to the U.S. for surgery, Cindy realized she couldn’t give her up. At the Phoenix airport, she broke it to her husband, and they eventually adopted the child. But few people knew that story. In the words of McCain’s national campaign manager, Rick Davis, a smear doesn’t have “to be true to be effective.”

Now see how the story changed at the beginning of 2008:

The Sunday Mail (Feb. 3, 2008, Dark past no barrier for Cindy):

“While working at Mother Teresa’s orphanage in the early 1990s, I stumbled upon the most beautiful little girl I’d ever seen,” she said. “She had a terrible cleft palate. She had problems with her feet. She had problems with her hands. She had all kinds of problems.

“As only Mother Teresa can, she prevailed upon me to take this baby and another baby to the United States for medical care.”

The Sunday Telegraph (Feb. 3, 2008, Cindy McCain: pills, ills, beer and the White House)

It was on a trip to Bangladesh in 1991 that she adopted Bridget. On Friday she recounted to voters in Missouri and Illinois how Mother Teresa persuaded her to return home with the child. “I just could not let her go. The only thing was, I had not told my husband. When I got back, he asked me ‘Where will she go?’ and I said: ‘I thought she could come to our house.’

Digital Journal (Jun 15, 2008, Can We Trust Cindy McCain to Represent American Women?):

Mrs. McCain has been involved in charity work from clearing landmines, to starting a charity to help children who need facial reconstruction. She has been inspired by her daughter she adopted from Bangladesh who needed extreme care after being born with a cleft palate. The adoption was prompted by Mother Teresa herself who implored Cindy to adopt the little girl. She did so without first consulting John McCain because of her compassion for the girl and her respect for Mother Teresa.

But the most damning evidence of a deliberate attempt to concoct this story comes from cached versions of the McCain campaign website.

Here’s how Cindy’s campaign bio reads on the website as late as November 9, 2004:

As an advocate for children’s health care needs, Cindy H. McCain founded the American Voluntary Medical Team (AVMT) in 1988. The AVMT provided emergency medical and surgical care to impoverished children throughout the world. Cindy led 55 medical missions to third world and war-torn countries during AVMT’s seven years of existence. During one of those missions, on a visit to Mother Teresa’s Orphanage Cindy agreed to bring two babies in need of medical attention back to the United States. One of those babies is now a happy and healthy little girl named Bridget McCain.

Now compare that to the change made on the website on February 3, 2008 — the same day the stories above by The Sunday Mail and The Sunday Telegraph were printed:

As an advocate for children’s health care needs, Cindy founded and ran the American Voluntary Medical Team (AVMT) from 1988 to 1995. AVMT provided emergency medical and surgical care to impoverished children throughout the world. Cindy led 55 medical missions to third world and war-torn countries during AVMT’s seven years of existence. On one of those missions, Mother Teresa convinced Cindy to take two babies in need of medical attention to the United States. One of those babies is now their adopted daughter, 15 year old Bridget McCain.

Notice the obvious change in the one sentence that depicts the circumstances of the adoption.

The instances of the dishonest efforts to create a McCain family portrait are growing. The campaign previously had to scrub its website of Cindy’s family recipes when it was discovered in April that they were largely cut and paste from the Food Network.

At the time, they blamed an intern for the problem. I wonder who they will now blame for Cindy McCain’s own words?

Are these indicative of the McCain family values?

UPDATE: Seems that Rick Warren told Larry King on Monday night that the Mother Teresa story was one of three times during Saturday’s forum that McCain teared-up. They’re liars and actors.

Mark Nickolas is the Managing Editor of Political Base, and this story was from his original post, “The Anatomy of a Deception: How The McCains Changed Their Baby Adoption Story Just Before 2008 Bid

5 Responses

  1. Why is it important to highlight that mother Theresa did or did not persuaded her to adopt her??? Or that the version has been changed over time?? That is completely irrelevant.
    The point is that she decided to bring the girl with her without hesitating and that senator McCain was willing to keep her and rise her as her own daughter as they did.
    Any of the garbage you wrote here or throw at them will not change the fact that THEY ARE GOOD PEOPLE and that only FEW good people open their hearts to kids in need.
    You should be ashamed for being so shallow and ask your self what your point is in doing this. Is it to prove that you don’t lie??? Hahaha!! Or is it to say that you have adopted more children than they have? Or is it to support Obama suggesting he doesn’t lie??
    Do you think Obama’s story was as touching as they retell it? Don’t you think his stories have also changed after retelling them over and over according to his audience? Of course they have! STOP throwing mud where truth stands! STOP treating readers like idiots!! We are not idiots we can see the truth by ourselves!

  2. Why is it important as to the role of Mother Theresa? Because Cindy McCain told a lie. Sure, it’s wonderful that they adopted a child. I applaud them. Many of us have done the same, but we didn’t lie about how it came about. There was no reason to invoke Mother Theresa as a part of the adoption process when she wasn’t.

  3. The fact they adopted an orphan from Bangladesh is admirable. But, for someone running for president and first lady of our nation, it is very important they be perceived by the American people as well as the world as truthful and forthright. So far, they have been neither. Whether it is changing and embellishing how and why their daughter, who I might add always seems to be missing from some of the most important moments of this campaign, including the family photo with his “running mate”. Or, the cross in the sand story of Vietnam, that may have been lifted from another brave prisoner in a camp years and miles from Vietnam. Or, most recently, the story mainstream media failed to follow on the lobbyist trist of John McCain. Are we to believe he did not have an affair because Cindy McCain said so; the same Cindy McCain that said there would be nothing negative coming in the campaign from their side. The same Cindy McCain that gave out recipes she lifted as her own rather than say these are recipes her family loves. Same recipe, very different reference.

    They use being a POW as a crutch for everything and to deflect every attack. If they are truly so proud of the daughter they adopted. Where is she? It is summer, school is out. Yesterday he introduced his vice presidential running mate and stood for a family photo. Where was the other daughter?

  4. Why haven’t we been seeing Bridget?

  5. Is this the best you’ve got? Seriously! Parsing sentences about Mother Theresa or her nuns seems like scraping the bottom of the barrel…no, wait, actually taking time to see if she lifted recipes from the Food Network is really the bottom.

    Why not look at a few things that say a lot more about Cindy and John McCain than the petty criticisms above.

    They took time and resources to make a better life for an otherwise hopeless child. Wow! Now THAT seems worth talking about. I mean, what a LIBERAL thing to do!

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