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. Marty, FL

    Rove appears to be in a perpetual state of denial and revisionist history. Neoconservative playbook.

    March 8, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  2. MSH, Miami, FL

    Oh, boo-hoo.....like we're supposed to feel sorry for this vile, evil excuse for a human being? Maybe you're telling the truth, Carl (although I seriously doubt it) but when you are known for underhanded, malicious tactics like this, you should be suprised when the blame gets pinned on you. You're evil, pure and simple - OWN it!

    March 8, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  3. Otto

    If that's the case, John McCain won the Presidency in 2000, 2004 and 2008 as well. If these guys did not pull a hat trick on McCain, he would not be as bitter as he is today. This guy (evil doer) Rove is a riot and he lied so many times; truth sometimes is a far fetched story. Liar!

    March 8, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  4. Bostonian-TheWoodlands,TX

    May Karma touch people like Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, and the like.

    Money, power and fame obviously can be their only reason for the smear,smut and lies these people willingly spew forth.
    Now don't get me wrong......there have been people on the left whom have lied, stolen, and been less thyan honest in their dealings.

    But it is the BLATANT, outright dishionesty that many ( so it seems ) on the right openly resort to.......as if it is the gospel truht !!!!!! That amazes me.

    How many...unfortunately a great many here in my new home of Texas, take it to be the ABSOLUTE truth is both frightening and mind boggling.

    The intellectually bankrupt and dishonesty among the American electorate in this country is scary.

    Ahhhhh...I have fallen down the rabbit hole

    March 8, 2010 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  5. ronnyg

    Uh, yeah, Karl, why not blame the guy who used this same type of tactic as far back as the Nixon administration as a young republican? Hmmm, Karl? You were, and always will be, a consummate liar.

    You are a pathetic human being and the world will be better off when you are gone.

    March 8, 2010 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  6. mark

    Are you serious? Rove is going for the "poor me, I'm a victim" thing here? Now I've seen everything.

    March 8, 2010 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  7. Reny

    Bush's brain is lying. He was behind all the dirt Bush did. There is a special place in hell for all these so called "compasiionate conservative Christians".

    March 8, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  8. Joseph-Ohio

    Why is this news? Who cares about McCain and or of all people Karl Rove! This man lied to America for 8 years so what makes you think we would believe him now. He is just trying to drum up book sales! Go figure!

    March 8, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  9. Marco

    Nice to see that Karl still, in his "denial," alleges that McCain was somehow wrong because he "mishandled" the RACIST rumor that Karl denies "originating," conveniently avoiding denying perpetuating it. Rove SPECIALIZES in rumors and dirty tricks, and has a long history of it. And the guilt here is palpable – just look how he twists the denial into yet another attack on John McCain, a la, "Sure, it was just a rumor, but McCain was incompetent in the way he handled it." Rove KNOWS that the spotlight on a non-caucasian daughter (had McCain gone that route) would merely have perpetuated the rumor. Look at the "birthers", Obama as a Muslim, and all of the rumor-mongering of the right that has some traction, regardless of how outrageous the lies are.

    Rove doesn't fool anyone – he USED this rumor to his advantage, and his conveniently worded "denial" seems to me to be more of an admission....

    March 8, 2010 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  10. Jim

    Gosh, I wonder who would have had a reason to organize a whisper campaign against John McCain besides the Bush camp? Do you suppose it was the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth people? Come on Karl, this doesn't even pass the smell test.

    March 8, 2010 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  11. gar

    People please....can we get back to the real news? Our Deficit is intolerable and the CBO revised President Obamas projections which will as a result add an additional $1.4 trillion to a debt that already is on the verge of bankrupting our nation. Obama and the debt! that is the news.

    March 8, 2010 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  12. AK Steve

    Does anyone else notice Roves tactic here. He denies spreading the tumor and then he starts blaming McCain for becoming the victim.

    This is typical of Rove/Cheney/Bush politics. Deny and blame. They are scum bags. Pure and simple – scum.

    March 8, 2010 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  13. Grog in Ohio

    It seems to me that most commentaries on this sorry history of Republican politics miss the point. The real point should be WHY this would make any difference to Republican voters. The fact that it did (and still does) tells you all you need to know about the Republican base.

    March 8, 2010 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    Nitice that Rove states that McCain "had no evidence whatsoever that he (Bush) was behind it". He doesn't deny that Bush was behind it, just that McCain had no evidence. These Wing Nuts went after McCain as if he were a Democrate, not a fellow Republican, they'd eat their young to get elected.

    March 8, 2010 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  15. BJs65

    Sure Karl. You had nothing to do with that. Suuurrreee...

    March 8, 2010 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  16. Too True For You

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

    Gee Karl, where ever did they get the idea of accusing you?

    "If it swims like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, then it's a duck." You worked hard to establish yourself as the quacking mastermind of malicious innuendo and the smear campaign.

    So here's another apt expression: "Reap what ye sow".

    March 8, 2010 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  17. BillOReits

    Poor, misunderstood Karl Rove; always the victim...Why would The Architect ever need to construct a story like that in the heat of a crucial southern primary??

    March 8, 2010 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  18. dee

    They where dead on you snake! That's your style. But mc cain is a coward for not setting the record straight. Why be ashamed anyway.Fight all racism!

    March 8, 2010 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  19. HRM

    Does anyone believe anything this man has to say?? His integrity is zero, and his book is found in the fiction section of the book store.

    March 8, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  20. dale

    I can fault Sen. McCain, for many thing that I would not agree with him about, but dishoinesty is not one of them. I can not say they same for Rove.

    March 8, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  21. SGJ`

    I pray everyday this horrible person dies a long horrible painful death equal to all the sufferring he has caused here in the US and around the world.

    March 8, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  22. Angie in PA

    If anyone belives this slimeball they have serious issuses! why is he not in jail???

    March 8, 2010 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  23. j

    All Rove is attempting to do is rewrite history and anyone that believes him can be conned into believing anything.

    March 8, 2010 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  24. jerseylou

    ROVE: YOU LIED plus she wasn't African American.

    March 8, 2010 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  25. Chipster

    I wish news agencies would stop showing anything about Rove. I feel like I need to wash my eyeballs after seeing anything about him! I didn't bother to read this because I just don't want that nasty, queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach.

    March 8, 2010 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
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