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. musician

    Please, please, please. No more articles about what Karl Rove says. I don`t believe a word he says, I don`t care what he thinks, I just want him to go away. He`s done enough damage already.

    March 8, 2010 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  2. James Miller

    Sounds like Rove-- on both counts. All`s fair in love, war AND politics. ---– Poor misunderstood Carl.

    March 8, 2010 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  3. Tom in Va

    There is not a personal alive with a shred of morals that doesn't see Karl Rove as the architect of the smear and whisper campaign. McCain isn't the only person whose good name was dug through the mud by Karl Rove.

    Frankly I don't know how the man sleeps at night..

    And I can't fathom how religious groups continue to back Rove's candidates.

    March 8, 2010 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  4. david, CA

    hard to know where the truth is found when you've got two pathological liars going at one another.

    March 8, 2010 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  5. FrankG

    This is newsworthy?
    Who cares?
    EOM

    March 8, 2010 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  6. Bridget McCain

    Apparently that was Karl's way of saying they are sorry.

    March 8, 2010 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  7. kevin mcclellan

    People forget that Rove worked for Donald Sergetti in the Nixon years. For those guys there was no lie too big or radical and nothing changed for Rove as the Bush master.

    March 8, 2010 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  8. Luke Brown

    It is well documented that the smear of McCain in SC was carefully crafted by leading Republican supporters of Bush in the state. Several of these were state officials, who were working directly with the national campaign.

    As a likely GOP primary voter, I personally received several robo calls like this. This was not rumor mongering. It was part of a very precise strategy to smear McCain's.

    As disciplined as the Bush campaign was, it is inconceivable that Rove did not know anything about this. Even if he didn't start it, he was well-aware of the attacks and that his people were behind it.... and did nothing to stop it.

    March 8, 2010 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  9. Michael

    I'm sure McCain thought " lets see, someone is trying to spread a vile lie about me just in time for my campaign against GWB, now who on earth would do a thing like that?" So he puts 2 and 2 together and gets 4 and says " I know who would be the most likely person ON PLANET EARTH to spread a vile lie about me – Karl Rove!" But, since Karl denies it I'm sure the thought never crossed his mind. Oh, that's right, Karl is a serial liar. do you think maybe...?

    March 8, 2010 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  10. Ellid

    Karl Rove is one of the dirtiest men in politics. If he truly expects people to believe that he wasn't ultimately responsible for the smears that cost McCain the nomination, I have a nice bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

    March 8, 2010 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  11. Tom from Canonsburg

    Rove & smear have exactly the same meaning. It's what he knows and exactly what he does. The evidence over years shows that smear is his primary tactic.

    March 8, 2010 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  12. Boytjie

    So Karl Rove is crying that he is a victim...

    March 8, 2010 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  13. Socrates43

    Rove or Bush or Cheney.. as well McCain can say or do anything to smear others.. and that includes Palin. These people have no morals and ALL of them claim that they BELIEVE IN GOD. They are a bunch or crooks, self serving, hypocrites and i consider them parasites because.. look what they did to this country in 7 years that were controlling it. Now that President Obama wants to do things for the American people they oppose because they think the country is in the wrong track,.,. and what did they say when Bush/Cheney were destroying this country?

    March 8, 2010 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  14. Raj

    Next he will deny everything he did to get Stupidest president elected. He will deny helping cook up swift boat controversy, and what next. He will claim he is second coming of Budha....Why do we give these rogues national platform to speak................

    March 8, 2010 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  15. P. D.

    Yeah, sure. Karl Rove has been smearing opponents his whole political life. He started early when George Bush was running for Governor against Ann Richards. He is nothing but an opportunist.

    March 8, 2010 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  16. JohnRJ08

    And, of course, Karl Rove would NEVER lie about something like that, would he...

    March 8, 2010 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  17. richie

    i do not believe a word Karl Rove says.

    March 8, 2010 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  18. HypocriCNN = B.S.

    Sure Karl "The Cowardly Lyin'" Rove Just Had Nothing To Do With It, If You Believe That Then You Should Believe That I'm An Heir To King Tut! How Many Times Can I Say That I Wouldn't Buy Karl Rove Say Even If His Tongue Came With A Notary Stamp.

    March 8, 2010 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  19. FarLeft

    Carl Rove was not only responsible for the 'whisper campaign' against John McCain, he was instrumental in the smear campaign against the then-opponents of the younger Bush, when said Bush was running for Texas governor, that led to bogus jail sentences for these poor folks. Watch a special entitled 'Bush's Brain' The lies begin from Carl Rove's mouth as-soon-as-he opens it.

    March 8, 2010 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  20. LetsBeCivil

    Rove may very well be honest about that particular negative attack. With his history of the politics of destruction, it is hard to accept that he could make any statement that is honest. He has done more severe damage to our political system and to public discourse than any other single source.

    March 8, 2010 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  21. Glen Copper

    Rove has worked hard at establishing himself as a corrupt, amoral, lying sleezeball who will do what ever it takes to win. He succeeded! He should not be surprised when, true or not, this kind of accusation seems entirely plausible.

    March 8, 2010 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  22. silence dogoode

    That's because McCain isn't a repulican...he's a democrat who wears the wrong tie....

    March 8, 2010 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  23. lookit

    why would anyone believe what Rove has to say? McCain WAS smeared in the 2004 campaign where the Bushies fought dirty to get their man back in after they stole the 2000 "election"...

    March 8, 2010 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  24. Bill

    I do not believe that Karl Rove could be "seized with fear" under any cicumstances since he is evil incarnate and fears no one ..... man or GOD in his quest to control this country and its citizens.

    No likes to be around the man, just like no one wants to be around his cohort, Dick Cheney.

    March 8, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  25. Tom in Delaware

    What? No CNN breaking News on Massa vs.Rahmbo?

    You're embarrassing yourselves again.....try reporting the news instead of shaping it....the people are a lot smarter than you think.

    March 8, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
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