Sen. John McCain’s campaign blasted as “garbage” a mailing sent out by a small band of Vietnam veterans that accused the Arizona Republican of betraying fellow prisoners of war.
The two-page mailing, which began arriving in South Carolina mailboxes Monday, includes a cartoon showing McCain in POW garb, sitting in a prison cell. Scrolled on the cell wall are, among other things, “songbird” and “The POWs I helped leave behind.”
“These two pieces of paper are a collection of half truths and misinformation and simply done to try and destroy John McCain,” former POW Orson Swindle said Tuesday in a conference call with reporters that McCain’s campaign arranged.
Swindle is part of what the McCain campaign is calling its “Truth Squad” to debunk negative attacks against the GOP candidate in advance of the upcoming South Carolina primary. In 2000, McCain was the victim of a fraudulent pollster who asked voters if they would think less of him if they knew he fathered a black baby. They pointed to McCain’s daughter Bridget, adopted from a Bangladesh orphanage.
A group called Vietnam Veterans Against McCain, formed early last year by Garnerville, N.Y., resident Jerry Kiley, 61, distributed this week’s mailing.
“We believe the American people should know the true facts about John McCain,” Kiley said in a telephone interview Tuesday night.
Among other things, Kiley’s group believes McCain gave away confidential information during his time as a POW, received preferential treatment from his captors and, since returning home, has turned his back on fellow POWs whom Kiley believes were left behind in Vietnam.
Swindle dismissed such notions as the ideas of a “a very few zealous conspiracy theory people.”
In 2004, Kiley led a similar effort against Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry and even staged a protest at the Democratic National Convention in Boston.
The anti-McCain mailing was sent to 80 newspaper editors in South Carolina, Kiley said.