September 27, 2022

John McCain’s family just expressed outrage that Republicans are exploiting his death in attack ads

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It’s been barely two weeks since John McCain was laid to rest, but the Arizona Republican Party is already exploiting his death for political gain. The National Republican Congressional Committee released two attack ads on Wednesday against two Democratic candidates using old footage of McCain criticizing them for their policy differences.


The ads were targeted at the Democratic candidate for Arizona’s 2nd district, Ann Kirkpatrick, and the candidate for Michigan 8th district, Elissa Slotkin. According to an article on Politico, the McCain family is not happy with the Republican organization using the late Senator’s comments in their campaign attack ads.

“The family is disappointed that John’s image is being weaponized this election cycle so soon after his passing, and they had hoped there would be a more appropriate amount of time for people to think about his final message before they began to politicize him,” Rick Davis, a family friend and former top adviser to the late Sen. John McCain, told Politico.

The NRCC did not answer the publication’s questions as to whether the committee sought permission from the McCain family to use the clips of the recently deceased Senator to fight battles through the ads in the two highly competitive congressional races, but  a source close to the McCain family said that they were not contacted by the NRCC before the ads started running.

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More from Politico:

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“The ad attacking Slotkin featured McCain telling her she ‘either don’t know the truth, or you are not telling the truth.’ Slotkin is running in Michigan’s 8th district against Republican Rep. Mike Bishop.”

“The Arizona ad featured McCain saying Kirkpatrick ‘won’t oppose higher taxes. She won’t oppose more federal spending. And she won’t oppose increased debts that slow economic growth.’ Kirkpatrick is running in Arizona’s Tucson-based 2nd District, which GOP Rep. Martha McSally left open to run for Senate.”

Tom Malinowski, the Democratic candidate for Congress in New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District, is also featuring a clip of McCain in his campaign ads, but unlike the Republicans, he actually sought permission from the late Senators aides, who raised no objections. Malinowski’s ad features McCain praising the candidate for his record opposing torture during the candidate’s confirmation hearing to be an assistant secretary of state in the Obama administration.

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While no one in the McCain camp objected to Malinowski’s use of the footage, some Republicans, apparently unaware of the NRCC’s plans, strongly condemned the Democrat for the move. Matt Brooks, the executive director of the Republican Jewish coalition, urged Malinowski to cease running the ad, using language that goes far beyond the mild rebuke the McCain family gave the NRCC.

“To wait until the passing of Senator McCain to release a political ad featuring his kind words, and implying support for Malinowski, a claim that McCain is no longer here to refute, is disgusting,” Brooks said.

Hopefully, the NRCC is cringing as they hear that description. Of course, one should note that the McCain family statement indicates that they are more concerned about the timing involved in weaponizing their patriarch’s words than the actual weaponization itself. If that weren’t the case, they could make a copyright claim to prevent the NRCC from using the footage of the Senator.

Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.

Colin Taylor

Managing Editor

Colin Taylor is the managing editor of the Washington Press. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice, equality, and universal health care in America.

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