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

Rove denies leading 2000 'whisper campaign' against McCain

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption =" 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. Sean

    Yeah....sure he wasn't involved. Give it a rest, Rove. You're not fooling anyone. We should replace the word "machiavellian" with "rovian". It's quicker and easier to type anyway.

    March 8, 2010 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  2. Charlie in Maine

    I can accept that McCain is still in the news since he is a Senator from Arizona but what news worthy thing could Karl Rove have to add to the national discussion. The only thing I would like to here from Karl Rove is a plea.

    March 8, 2010 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  3. Tommy

    Of course he denies it. I look at his face and I don't see a liar there.

    But, I do have a bridge to sell...

    March 8, 2010 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  4. In the West

    This IS news. This liar guided the worst president in recent memory through many of his immoral transgreaasions.

    To Tom in Delaware: The Massa story is on the front page right now. CNN reports the news, it doesn't exist just to make you lame extremists happy. Get over it.

    March 8, 2010 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  5. In the West

    This IS news. This liar guided the worst president in recent memory through many of his immoral transgressions.

    To Tom in Delaware: The Massa story is on the front page right now. CNN reports the news, it doesn't exist just to make you lame extremists happy. Get over it.

    March 8, 2010 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  6. Tommy

    Well, Karl, if they didn't want to blame Bush, why didn't they just blame the red-headed step-child in the room – the Democratic party?

    March 8, 2010 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  7. Tommy

    To ThinkAgain:

    Actually, Atwater was a saint compared to our boy Karl. Satan may be able to learn a few things from this guy.

    Karl Rove wrote a how to manual for alll of the deadly sins.

    March 8, 2010 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  8. BrianGTexas

    I understand why some people become hermits. "Civilization" is way too uncivilized. Better to take one's chances with Mother Nature.

    March 8, 2010 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  9. Rogue

    Rove, simply the sleaziest man in the history of American politics. A sad excuse for a human much less a man. I

    March 8, 2010 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  10. Sheri

    Oh yes, you are just the straightest arrow of never do anything questionable, pure kind of guy aren't you Rove? What are you comparing yourself to.. nitric acid?

    March 8, 2010 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  11. hongli

    The Republican Party is filled with LIARS ,and RACIAL BEINGS.

    March 8, 2010 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  12. Pragmatic

    This delusional little man, rewriting history, looking through "Rove-colored glasses!" The party of "personal responsibility" is the party of "mistakes were made" and "I don't recall" Now it's all about blaming the victim:
    I was in NY – I saw the GOP ads against McCain – stating he was against breast cancer legislation: truth? He voted against a pork-filled bill that breast cancer research was a tiny part ... Rove Lies!

    March 8, 2010 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  13. George

    Sen. McCain, I do not live in Arizona and I did not support your campaign for president, but this excuse from Mr. Rove just takes the cake. I hope you are remarkably avenged in the GOP primary in your state and win back your Senate seat for another term. This kind of smear campaigning is far too rampant in both parties, but has been perfected by puffed up losers like Mr. Rove. It has completely wiped out any faith that most Americans have in their elections and politicians. I'm sorry that a man of such service to his nation in the military and in the US Senate could be treated this way by the very party which nominated him for president in the last cycle. Shameful and unworthy of your years of contribution.

    McCain '10 in Arizona!
    (Never thought I'd say that)

    March 8, 2010 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  14. Kay

    Author: Karl Rove

    Title: Twice Upon Another Lie

    March 8, 2010 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  15. Squigman

    I hope that the day comes when the people of the nation elevate their collective IQ's to the point, that the republican party becomes as extinct as the Do-Do's they try to emulate. Wake-Up America. It's apparent in reading the first few sentences of the artical, that racism, and bigotry are not only alive and well in the republican ranks, it's thriving like fatted rats, biting each others tails off.

    March 8, 2010 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  16. SC-Pub "no" more

    Any one that would believe one word this man says is dumber than Bush. He, like other Pubs is trying to covering his a$&.

    March 8, 2010 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  17. Mike in Dallas

    Everybody knows Rovian tactics when they see them. This sort of tactic has been used against all of Bush's opponents and Bush himself isn't smart enough to conceive of them. It is amusing that this guy writes a book about himself in order to make tons of money and then titles this book he wrote, or ghost wrote about himself "Courage and Consequence." I guess that is the courage of his opponents and consequences they face when going up against a conniving, backstabing, absolutely devoid of morals or high character, little worm that the world knows as Karl Rove.

    March 8, 2010 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  18. Scottyrw

    The Republicans have had the same plan for years .... Demonize a person or group .... then devide and conqueror! Oh, and also lie and cheat much as as nesessary to win!

    March 8, 2010 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  19. Mike in Dallas

    gar March 8th, 2010 12:36 pm ET

    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.

    Geeze, I'm sure you can find plenty of articles where you can "carp" about these issues. If you didn't want to read about this or see what others had to say you didn't have to read it, simple as that. By the way, where was your concern for issues concerning national debt when it was Republicans driving it up??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ???

    March 8, 2010 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  20. Jack Fl

    Every time some controversial jerk writes a book the media lines up to interview them so they can have first dibs on some new old controversy. Some folks can be played like a fiddle, not me! I can't read nor do I give a pluck what anyone without integrity may have to say... I meant lie about.

    March 8, 2010 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  21. JonDie

    Pretty amazing the Bush, a wartime desertor, actually painted McCain, a POW, as soft...and even more amazingly, McCain returned the favor by supporting Bush for president and voted with Bush more than 90% of the time.

    March 8, 2010 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  22. Kweso

    Vote Karl Rove for President....President of American Liars Association.

    March 8, 2010 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  23. Edwin


    Yes, Rove will go down as " of the greatest political minds..." - just like Hitler...

    March 8, 2010 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
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