Republican John McCain quickly denounced the comments of a conservative radio talk show host who while warming up a campaign crowd referred repeatedly to Barack Hussein Obama and suggested the Democrat was an unsavory politician.
Hussein is Obama’s middle name, but talk show host Bill Cunningham used it three times as he addressed the crowd Tuesday before the likely Republican nominee’s appearance.
False rumors about Obama having Islamic ties are circulating on the Internet and some opponents have used his middle name to try to link him with former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
“Now we have a hack, Chicago-style Daley politician who is picturing himself as change. When he gets done with you, all you’re going to have in your pocket is change,” Cunningham said as the audience roared.
Chicago is known for its legendary political machine that historically doled out jobs and favours in exchange for support for Democrats on Election Day. The courts have mostly dismantled the machine by outlawing political patronage, but the city’s powerful Democrats – like Mayor Richard Daley – can still turn out the vote.
The time will come, Cunningham added, when the media will “peel the bark off Barack Hussein Obama” and tell the truth about his relationship with indicted fundraiser Antoin “Tony” Rezko, who donated thousands of dollars to Obama’s campaign that the candidate has since returned, and how Obama got “sweetheart deals” in Chicago.
McCain was not on stage nor in the building when Cunningham made the comments, but he quickly distanced himself from them and the talk show host after finishing his speech. McCain spoke to a couple hundred people at Memorial Hall in downtown Cincinnati.
“I apologise for it,” McCain told reporters, addressing the issue before they had a chance to ask the Arizona senator about Cunningham’s comments.
“I did not know about these remarks but I take responsibility for them. I repudiate them,” he said. “My entire campaign I have treated Senator Obama and Senator Clinton with respect. I will continue to do that throughout this campaign.”
McCain called both Democrats “honourable Americans” and said “I want to dissociate myself with any disparaging remarks that may have been said about them.”
Asked whether the use of Obama’s middle name is proper, McCain said: “No, it is not. Any comment that is disparaging of either Senator Clinton or Senator Obama is totally inappropriate.”
McCain said he did not know who decided to allow Cunningham to speak but said he was sure it was in co-ordination with his campaign. He said he did not hear the comments and has never met Cunningham, but “I will certainly make sure that nothing like that happens again.”
Later, on his radio show, Cunningham expressed disappointment with McCain’s apology and said he would endorse Clinton as a result.
“Did John McCain repudiate me? When he didn’t hear the remarks at all? He didn’t hear them. He just threw me under the bus to the national media,” Cunningham said on local radio station WLW. “I’ve had it with McCain. I’m going to endorse Hillary Clinton. I’m going to throw my support behind Hillary Clinton.”
Cunningham also disputed McCain’s assertion that the two had never met.
Responding to McCain’s apology, Obama spokesman Bill Burton said, “It is a sign that if there is a McCain-Obama general election, it can be intensely competitive but the candidates will attempt to keep it respectful and focused on issues.”
Last fall, McCain faced criticism for initially not repudiating a voter in South Carolina who insulted Clinton. McCain chuckled in response to the voter’s question, but did not embrace the epithet. A few minutes later, he said he respected Clinton, a New York senator and colleague.
Aside from using Obama’s middle name, Cunningham also mocked the Illinois senator’s foreign policy statements about his willingness to meet with the leaders of rogue nations. He said he envisions a future in which “the great prophet from Chicago takes the stand and the world leaders who want to kill us will simply be singing Kumbaya together around the table with Barack Obama.” (AP)
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