Washington (CNN) – Sen. John McCain's campaign is out with a scathing new ad against the senator's Republican primary opponent, calling J.D. Hayworth among the "dumbest" people previously in Congress. Now Hayworth's campaign is firing back, suggesting the ad is shameless. Hayworth's campaign also claims that McCain – a celebrated war veteran – is using America's World War II heroes "as a political tool."
The Web ad from the McCain campaign, titled "Hayworth History Lesson," was released Tuesday and is presented in a style reminiscent of an old, black-and-white newsreel.
It opens with a clip – dated May 20 - of Hayworth saying: "The war that Dwight Eisenhower led in Europe against the Third Reich was never declared by the United States Congress. Germany declared war on us two days later. We never formally declared war on Hitler's Germany."
As the ad continues, a man's voice is heard apparently trying to correct Hayworth. "I think we did," the voice says.
Hayworth then is heard saying, "Yeah, I think we should check it."
In fact, the U.S. declared war against Germany in December of 1941.
At the end of the ad an announcer says, "J.D. Hayworth. Is it any wonder he was voted among the dumbest members of Congress?"
The ad cites a 2006 Radar Online list that slams Hayworth as being among "America's 10 Dumbest Members of Congress."
Hayworth served in Congress for for six terms until his 2006 defeat.
In a statement, McCain communications Director Brian Rogers said, "Congressman Hayworth's failure to understand the basic details of such a major event betrays his tenuous grasp on American history."
Now Hayworth's campaign is firing back. In a biting statement to CNN, spokesman Mark Sanders acknowledged that Hayworth spoke in error.
But Sanders called it "a mistake that the McCain camp is trying to shamelessly use to distract voters from the real issues." "…it is politics at its worst, which is what we have come to expect from John McCain."
Sanders also accused McCain of using World War II veterans for political gain. "As we approach Memorial Day, we honor the men and women of the Greatest Generation for their service. McCain uses them as a political tool," he said.
"The real question is not who misspoke about an event nearly seventy years ago, but who has the faulty memory about events happening today," Sanders added.