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CAMPAIGN '08: RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE

McCain defends 'pig' remark reaction

A host calls his Web ads on Obama lies. McCain insists Obama 'shouldn't have said it.'

September 13, 2008|Maeve Reston | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — Taking his campaign to the daytime talk show circuit Friday, John McCain said his camp was not out of bounds when it released a Web video this week suggesting that his Democratic rival, Barack Obama, compared Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin to a pig.

The controversy began Tuesday evening after Obama told the crowd at a town hall meeting in Lebanon, Va., that McCain's efforts to present himself as an agent of change were disingenuous. Arguing that the Arizona senator does not differ from President Bush on issues such as tax policy and "Karl Rove-style politics," Obama added: "That's not change. . . . You can put lipstick on a pig, and it's still a pig."

McCain's surrogates expressed outrage, claiming the comment was a clear reference to Palin because she is the only candidate in the race who wears lipstick and because her signature line in her convention acceptance speech was that the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull is lipstick.

During McCain's appearance on ABC's "The View" on Friday, co-host Joy Behar asked him why he approved a campaign Web video that showed Obama's pig remark after a frame that read "Barack Obama on Sarah Palin."

"They're lies," Behar said, referring to that video and another McCain ad, about Obama's record on sex education.

"Actually, they are not lies," McCain replied crisply.

"He shouldn't have said it," McCain said of Obama's pig remark. "He chooses his words very carefully, and this is a tough campaign."

McCain added that the harsh tone of the campaign would be different if the Illinois senator had accepted his invitation to appear at joint town halls across the country this summer.

McCain, making a concerted effort to win over female voters, generally received a warm reception from the live audience, though he drew boos when he reaffirmed his position that the abortion rights ruling in Roe vs. Wade was "a very bad decision" that should be overturned.

His appearance also offered another chance to strongly defend Palin's experience as governor of Alaska for nearly two years and, before that, mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, for four years. "She's ignited a spark in America," he said.

In a lighter moment, co-host Barbara Walters needled McCain about his recent statements that Palin is the greatest vice presidential candidate "in the history of the United States."

"Greater than John Adams, who became president? Greater than father George Bush who became president? That sound a little strong?" Walters asked.

McCain chuckled: "Politicians are never given to exaggeration or hyperbole, as you know. But the fact is, I think she's a great person, she's a great governor. . . . I'm very happy and very pleased to have her."

He and his wife, Cindy, also taped an appearance on "Rachael Ray," to air Sept. 22, in which he extolled his "regular guy" interests, including barbecuing -- he divulged his ribs recipe, which he can cook on his four grills -- and his favorite TV shows: "Lost," "The Office" and "24."

"My hero is Jack Bauer," he said. "He always escapes. I never escape."

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maeve.reston@latimes.com

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