March 8th, 2010
12:11 PM ET
5 years ago

Rove denies leading 2000 'whisper campaign' against McCain

 Karl Rove (left) said Monday that he was not behind an infamous rumor in the 2000 presidential campaign that alleged Sen. John McCain (right) had fathered a black child out of wedlock.
Karl Rove (left) said Monday that he was not behind an infamous rumor in the 2000 presidential campaign that alleged Sen. John McCain (right) had fathered a black child out of wedlock.

(CNN) - Karl Rove denied Monday being the source of the infamous rumor in the 2000 presidential campaign that erroneously alleged Arizona Sen. John McCain had fathered a black child out of wedlock.

Rove, a longtime political and policy advisor to former President George W. Bush, said in an interview on NBC's "Today" show he had "nothing to do with" the smear tactic that began circulating prior to the South Carolina Republican presidential primary. The rumor was false as one of McCain's daughters, Bridget, was adopted from a Bangladesh orphanage.

Rove, who is promoting his new book "Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight," said he was "seized with fear" as the rumor began to spread.

"I thought John McCain would seize it for what it was, which was an enormous opportunity to give an insight into who he and his wife are," Rove said. "Because they adopted, Cindy McCain adopted a child from an orphanage in Bangladesh, who is their daughter, and the story of this is an incredible tale of love and compassion. But rather than doing that, John McCain said 'I'm a victim' and was angry and complained about it and pointed the finger at Bush when he had no evidence whatsoever that he was behind it."

Rove said he became an easy target for critics to accuse him of masterminding this malicious campaign tactic.

"Cindy McCain and the McCain campaign, [Deputy Campaign Manager Roy] Fletcher and others – they needed somebody to blame and they didn't want to blame Bush," Rove said. "It was hard to blame Bush. He's a nice guy. People knew him. It wouldn't stick. So why not pick at the sort of dough-faced, balding guy who's the grey eminence behind the campaign and blame him?"


Filed under: John McCain • Karl Rove
soundoff (198 Responses)
  1. ThinkAgain

    Rove was behind the attack on McCain, and everyone knows it.

    Rove learned all his dirty tricks from his mentor, Lee Atwater, the man behind the Willie Horton ads during the Bush/Dukakis compaign.

    And for all of his despicable acts over the years, I sincerely hope that Rove suffers the same, agonizingly painful fate as did Atwater.

    March 8, 2010 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  2. El Kababa

    It's the Bart Simpsom defense: "Nobody saw me do it. Nobody can prove I did it. Therefore, I didn't do it."

    Without evidence to the contrary, I suppose we must accept Rove at his word. However, I'd love to question that guy with some truth serum. If he didn't do this, he did many other things that were much more despicable.

    March 8, 2010 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  3. Bush's Brain

    Karl Rove belongs in prison. Do not pass GO/Do not collect $200

    March 8, 2010 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  4. Lee

    What an absolute crock for Rove to turn this around as though John McCain is to blame! His smear machine and his infamous "push polling" spread that rumor and that's been established for a long time. It's interesting that it takes him 10 years to categorically deny this; funny how he isn't interested in denying it until he starts writing a book.

    March 8, 2010 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  5. California Gary

    Duh........who else stood to gain by the spreading of that dirt if not the Bush campaign? And who called the shots in that campaign? Rove is a slimeball.

    March 8, 2010 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  6. aliou

    He thought his favorates would win against mcain in early campaign, but they all fell out like flies. Then it was too late to withdraw the rumor. Served him right.

    March 8, 2010 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  7. stevetall

    Don't buy this freak's book. A lower scum bag is hard to find.

    March 8, 2010 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  8. The Voice

    Like that crook would admit to anything!

    March 8, 2010 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  9. ThinkAgain

    With his book, Rove is not only rewriting history, he's trying to paint himself as some kind of patriotic innocent in an effort that as he helps the GOP with their dirty campaigns, people won't suspect him of the foul, despicable acts he has always done and will continue to do.

    March 8, 2010 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  10. Philly Pat

    I wouldn't believe anything Rove has to say. He is the quintessential dirtbag political strategist. He should be in jail, not on a book tour.

    March 8, 2010 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  11. Patsy, Texas

    I'm surprised this guy isn't wearing wings and a halo during his boring
    interviews. When this guy talks, honesty is the last thing I think of,
    so the imagery might help. These guys, Cheney, Rove, etc sure are
    busy trying the untarnish their images. Feeling guilty maybe? This
    onslaught of "we are perfect" rhetoric must mean some of the truth is
    sticking, and they are running scared.

    March 8, 2010 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  12. Anonymous

    I think you wanted "dough-faced," CNN. You guys are clowns. I'll be reading the Times website if you need any more proofing.

    March 8, 2010 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  13. CR

    Q. How can you tell when Karl Rove is lying?

    A. His lips are moving.

    March 8, 2010 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  14. double standard

    Mr.Rove,the only thing you need to fear is the day you meet your maker,for all of the hate and lies that you keep speaking of .One other little thing you may want to fear is,that little war in Iraq you pushed on Bush !!

    March 8, 2010 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  15. Thomas

    Rove is a waste of DNA that could better have been used to create more pond scum.

    March 8, 2010 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  16. Jim

    I guess Karl Rove is trying to clear his conscience with his revisionist history.

    March 8, 2010 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  17. marlene

    And I'm supposed to believe Karl Rove – Why? Just because someone says words, it doesn't make them true. Marlene in Mich

    March 8, 2010 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  18. Josh

    Such a bad lier

    March 8, 2010 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  19. I am the Wizard of Rush and I Say . . .

    Rove is a sociopathic habitual liar with a long history of personal family attacks against the "opposition".

    March 8, 2010 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  20. Michael

    Karl, we all know who is behind it, don't we.
    You just have such a problem with reality and lies.
    That is just 1 more example. Just like WMD and all your other claims.
    You and Dick the Coward are as ruthless as they come.
    one day everything will be public. Maybe your wife will one day tell the truth. Your ex-wife that is.

    March 8, 2010 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  21. Walter

    Once we have added the whispering campaign against McCain to the long list of Rove's other denials, what have we learned? Only that Rove refuses to take responsibility for any of the sins that his organization committed.

    Where's the news in that? Compared to the Bush administration's war crimes, this is small potatoes.

    March 8, 2010 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  22. JonDie

    Karl Rove = liar

    March 8, 2010 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  23. Face reader

    Rove has told so many lies now he cant tell the difference.Hes been the master at smearing people all his life,like what he did to Anne Richards in Texas.His mamma should have saved the world and had an abortion.

    March 8, 2010 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  24. if I was crazy, I'd be a conservative too

    Has Rove ever told the truth? One of the key players in the republican culture of corruption continues to alter facts and rewrite history.

    March 8, 2010 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  25. C. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    McCain should have seized the moment, but no he showed he was ashame, ashame of a child that he adopted. McCain is and always has been a fraud and I don't undertand why people don't see that. This mans whole life has been constructed on lies.

    March 8, 2010 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
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