NEW ORLEANS (CNN) – Republican presidential candidate John McCain grew testy while talking to reporters Friday when questioned about whether he’d ever talked to Democratic Senator John Kerry about becoming his presidential running mate back in 2004.
On a campaign flight, New York Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller asked the Arizona senator about a story in that paper in 2004 quoted McCain as saying he had never discussed the possibility of joining the Democratic ticket that year. "Everybody knows that I had a private conversation,” McCain said, shortly. “Everybody knows that, that I had a conversation. …
"It's well known. Everybody knows it’s been well chronicled a thousand times,” said McCain, repeatedly interrupting Bumiller. “That John Kerry asked if I would consider being his running mate and I said categorically no, under no circumstances. …I don’t know what you may have read or heard of and I don’t know the circumstances. Maybe in May of ’04 I hadn’t had a conversation. I don’t know—but it is well known that I had the conversation. It’s absolutely well known by everyone. So do you have a question on another issue?”
During a town hall in Atlanta before the flight, McCain had been asked if he’d consider Kerry for his running mate. “That’s the first time I’ve ever gotten that question,” he deadpanned, adding that he respected the Massachusetts senator, and had spoken with him about that possibility in 2004, to turn him down - a statement that Bumiller later questioned him over. McCain had also told the Atlanta crowd he could not share a ticket with Kerry because “I just totally disagree with him.”
Earlier this week, 1996 GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole told CNN’s Larry King that his former Senate colleague “does have a… I guess you could say temper. But I always sort of rationalized that because the poor guy had been locked up” in a tiny cell for six years. He added that McCain “can control it. It's not a problem anymore.”
UPDATE: McCain Senior Adviser Steve Schmidt called this issue "complete and total nonsense."
"What Americans really care about are things like 63,000 jobs lost last month, and that's the kind of thing McCain is going to talk about," said Schmidt.