Arizona GOP Senate candidate Kelli Ward wrote a comment on social media Saturday suggesting that a statement issued by Sen. John McCain’s family was intended to hurt her in her bid to win a U.S. Senate seat. On Friday Senator McCain’s family released a public statement saying they had decided to end the senator’s medical treatment for brain cancer which had been going on since the beginning of the year. Senator McCain died Saturday, just a few hours after Ward made the suggestion on Facebook.
The Arizona Republic reported the news about the social media posts, which have subsequently been removed. According to the newspaper, Ward wrote:
“I think they wanted to have a particular narrative that they hope is negative to me.”
Ward wrote her comment about McCain’s family on the Facebook page of one of her campaign staffers who had questioned the timing of the McCain family’s release. Both Ward and her staff person seemed to be of the opinion that at a time of great grief for John McCain’s family all they could think about was how to hurt Ward’s campaign.
It appeared to be a coincidence that Ward began a bus tour for her campaign on the same day as the McCain family issued their statement, the newspaper reported.
On Facebook, Ward’s staff member asked if the statement released by the senator’s family “was a plan to take media attention off her campaign” instead of a mere coincidence. And Ward immediately latched on to the paranoid conspiracy theory set forth by her staff member by saying that McCain’s family “wanted to have a particular narrative that they hope is negative to me.”
The former vice chairman of a Maricopa County Republican Party group, Aaron Borders, took screenshots of Ward’s remarks on Facebook before they were deleted. He then posted them and later lambasted the candidate’s comment in an interview with The Republic.
“It’s wildly inappropriate,” Borders said in his interview. “It’s classless. It’s not decent … it’s very narcissistic. It’s a narcissist comment to sit there and think that the McCain family made this decision to interfere with your bus tour.”
Ward’s statement was deleted shortly after Borders’ interview was published online. She then posted a follow-up comment on Facebook in which she blamed the media for what happened.
Here is her follow up comment:
“The media loves a narrative. I’ve said again and again to pray for Senator McCain & his family. These decisions are terrible to have to make. I feel compassion for him and his family as they go through this. It’s not the McCains creating a narrative – it’s the media making something out of nothing. The media, the left, and the Establishment have the agenda.”
“They’ve been attacking me over fake stories for a year on this issue. I ran against Mr. McCain. I don’t agree with his voting record and rhetoric. I pray for him as a man who is suffering.”
Later, after that comment also appeared on the newspaper’s website, it also was deleted by Ward. Clearly she is a Senate candidate who is having trouble getting her message right.
After all of this hubbub, Ward’s campaign spokesperson, Zachery Henry, did not even respond to the Republic’s request for comment. Apparently he is hoping that if he and the campaign say nothing more the whole incident will just go away. Of course, with the internet nothing ever goes away completely.
Ward did later write a Twitter post saying she was “saddened” to hear of his passing. “His decades of service will not be forgotten by the men & women of Arizona,” Ward tweeted on Saturday. “May God grant the McCain family comfort and peace during this difficult time.”
And of course this tweet also faced a barrage of criticism from those slamming her earlier Facebook posting.
McCain, the giant of the Senate and Vietnam War veteran died one day after his family announced that he would be discontinuing medical treatment for brain cancer.
According to the RealClearPolitics average of Arizona senate polls, Ward is trailing Martha McSally by eight percentage points in the race for the Republican nomination to replace Jeff Flake in the U.S. Senate.