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

Cindy McCain may reap benefits of Anheuser-Busch takeover bid

Published: 06.13.2008
By Jonathan D. Salant and Kristin Jensen

Cindy McCain, the wife of presumptive Republican nominee John McCain, may see a fortune of at least $8.5 million rise with a proposed takeover of beermaker Anheuser- Busch Co., financial disclosures show.

Cindy McCain owned more than $1 million of Anheuser-Busch shares at the end of last year, according to a Senate disclosure form filed by her husband and released today. News of the $46.3 billion unsolicited bid from InBev NV has sent the company’s shares soaring, up about 17 percent from Dec. 31.

The exact size of the potential windfall is unknown because the financial forms require lawmakers and their spouses to list only ranges for the values of their assets, and one option is to simply say “over $1 million.” Messages left with McCain’s Senate office and campaign weren’t immediately returned.

InBev made the $65-per-share offer for the maker of Budweiser beer on June 11, and Anheuser-Busch said it would consider the bid. A transaction would unite Budweiser, the lager first brewed 132 years ago in St. Louis, with InBev’s Stella Artois, Bass and more than 200 other brands.

Cindy McCain also owns a beer distributorship, Hensley & Co., worth more than $1 million. She reported liabilities of between $2.8 million and $5.5 million, owing money on King Aviation, the private jet company whose planes were used by her husband during the campaign, as well as construction, credit and promissory notes.

John McCain’s only assets were a checking account and money market account, valued at $16,000 to $65,000, two joint checking accounts worth between $2,000 and $30,000, and his Navy pension of $58,358. He received $176,508 in book royalties, which he donated to charity.

Because Arizona Senator McCain is running for president, the U.S. Office of Government Ethics required his wife to liquidate her blind trust because it was set up under Senate rules, not Executive Branch requirements. Among her stock holdings were CBS Corp. and General Electric Co., which own two of the four major television networks, Exxon Mobil Corp., and Goldman Sachs Group. New York Senator Hillary Clinton faced a similar requirement during her presidential campaign.

Cindy McCain last month released two pages of her 2006 tax returns, showing income of $6.1 million, including $4.6 million from real estate. She hasn’t filed her 2007 returns. The McCains keep their finances separate and file separate returns.

McCain, 71, will be taking on presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama, 46. Obama, an Illinois senator, also filed a disclosure form that showed he and his wife Michelle had assets of $2 million to $7 million at the end of last year, mostly in bank accounts and mutual funds. One money market account was worth as much as $5 million.

The Obamas, who have two daughters, also bought into two college savings plans in transactions worth between $100,000 and $250,000 each, according to the disclosure form.

With reporting by Lizzie O’Leary, William McQuillen and Julianna Goldman in Washington.

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