Cindy McCain Adds Fresh Details to False Human Trafficking Tale inWaPo Interview

Cindy McCain: Her ignorance of sex work and sex trafficking boggles the cerebellum. (Gage Skidmore via Flickr)
In a recent, glowing profile in the Washington Post, Arizona beer heiress Cindy McCain added new details to her bogus sex trafficking claim from February of this year.

Give Arizona’s brewski queen her due, Cindy McCain knows how to goose a yarn, even when the tale’s taller than the Philadephia ’76ers’ Serbian center Boban Marjanovic.

During an interview with Washington Post reporter Roxanne Roberts for a glowing profile of the multimillionaire beer heiress published May 9, the late Sen. John McCain’s widow expanded on a blunder she’d made earlier in the year, in which she wrongly claimed on a Phoenix radio show that she had thwarted the trafficking of a toddler at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport.

McCain explained the event to Roberts, thus:

“It was a woman with a child and the child was reacting horrifically,” [McCain] says. “This child was terrified, kicking and screaming. There was something wrong.” The police determined there was no evidence of criminal conduct or child endangerment, but not before Cindy described the incident on the radio, was excoriated on Twitter and forced to apologize.

“I got carried away,” she says. “I made a mistake because I believed that’s what happened. As it turned out, it was not. But I don’t want to discourage people from saying something if they see something.”

In her original February 4 account of the incident on KTAR (92.3 FM)’s Mac & Gaydos show, McCain claimed that she had seen a mother and child of two different ethnicities together at the airport, sensed something was wrong, informed the cops, and as a result, the cops foiled a human trafficking operation taking place in plain sight.

Bum-pa-dum, Super Cindy to the rescue!

Curious journos queried the Phoenix Police Department about McCain’s astonishing story, and  48 hours later, the police issued a statement, saying that officers on duty at the time had done a “check welfare on a child” at Senora McCain’s request. During this welfare check, they discovered “no evidence of criminal conduct or child endangerment.”

“It was a woman of a different ethnicity than the child – this little toddler she had. Something didn’t click with me. I tell people trust your gut. I went over to the police and I told them what I thought and they went over and questioned her and by God she was trafficking that kid.” — Cindy McCain on KTAR’s Mac & Gaydos show.

The Twitterverse picked up on McCain’s initial description of the mother being “of a different ethnicity than the child,” and called her out for making bigoted assumptions and scurrying to the police with suggestions of criminality.

For many on social media, McCain’s reliance on ethnic stereotypes echoed online memes of white women calling the po-po on non-whites for non-existent crimes, inspiring such derisive internet nicknames as “BBQ Becky” and “Permit Patty.”

On February 6, McCain Tweeted a mea culpa, referring to her mantra about trafficking, which she borrowed from a U.S. Department of Homeland Security campaign, stating, “I apologize if anything else I have said on this matter distracts from, `if you see something, say something.'”

Notably, there was no apology from Cindy to the lady she reported to the bulls.

No police report was generated as a result of the incident. Anecdotally, one police spokesman told me that the “adult female was of Asian descent and the child was mixed race, Asian and African American.”

Parade of zombies.
Cindy’s sex trafficking myths are harder to kill than a parade of zombies. (Eric Brochu via Flickr)

However, during her February 4 interview on KTAR (92.3 FM)’s Mac & Gaydos show, McCain was absolutely certain that the police had found out that the woman was selling the child to some creepy unknown male.

“It was a woman of a different ethnicity than the child – this little toddler she had,” McCain explained at the time. “Something didn’t click with me. I tell people trust your gut. I went over to the police and I told them what I thought and they went over and questioned her and by God she was trafficking that kid.”

She averred that the woman was “waiting for the guy who bought the child to get off the airplane.”

“I witnessed with my own eyes six little girls lined up against a wall in a [Native American] casino outside of Phoenix on display for customers,” McCain testified at a U.S. Senate hearing in 2017.

These specific details are, in fact, completely untrue, but McCain has never explained how she came by them.

Significantly, nowhere in the radio interview does McCain mention that the child was “terrified, kicking and screaming.” Rather, according to what she said on the Mac & Gaydos show, the reason she seemed to think something was amiss had to do with the ethnicity of those involved.

The Post piece carefully avoids the issue of racial stereotyping, though that is what angered so many on social media.

In a February 7 news item on the incident, Post reporter Meagan Flynn correctly observed that this case resembled many cases in recent years, “in which parents of children whose skin color or ethnicity differs from theirs fell under suspicion from other travelers or authorities at airports.”

Flynn related the details of “a white Arizona man” who said he was accused in December 2017 at Phoenix Sky Harbor of “trafficking his 16-year-old daughter, whom he and his wife adopted from China.” Flynn also told of a white “women’s basketball coach at the University of California at Berkeley,” who was asked by a Southwest Airlines employee at Denver International Airport to show evidence “that her 1-year-old biracial son was really hers.”

McCain’s claims concerning human trafficking and the Super Bowl are easy to debunk, but like Game of Thrones’ Army of the Dead, nearly impossible to kill.

Other anecdotes that McCain uses to illustrate the urgency of her pet issue involve what could be considered ethnic or racial stereotyping. For instance, McCain’s origin story for her discovery of the dark world of human trafficking involves a trip she supposedly took many years ago to India.

While shopping for sari fabric for her adopted daughter Bridget, whom McCain rescued from an orphanage in Bangladesh, McCain says she entered a shop in Calcutta and saw several eyes staring up at her from the floorboards. The shopkeeper told her that it was his family, but McCain later concluded they were children that the man was trafficking.

According to McCain, this experience led to her crusade against human trafficking, via the McCain Institute on International Leadership, where she now serves as chair of the non-profit’s board, and as co-chair the Arizona governor’s Human Trafficking Commission.

(Note: Human trafficking is defined by federal law as labor or sex work involving children or adults through force, fraud or coercion. Labor trafficking is more prevalent, but sex trafficking garners all the headlines, largely because it is often conflated with prostitution, in which consenting adults engage in commercial sex.)

Similarly, during a September 27, 2017 hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, on which her husband then sat, Cindy McCain claimed, without any actual evidence, that sex trafficking was rampant on Indian reservations.

In 1994, an investigation by the Phoenix New Times revealed that McCain had stolen prescription painkillers from AVMT that putatively were intended for casualties of war or natural disasters. McCain even had a doctor write scrips for the narcotics in the names of others.

McCain testified that American Indian girls and women are sold by their own people, and that Indian gaming made things worse. She also claimed that she personally had seen children being trafficked on an unnamed reservation.

“I witnessed with my own eyes six little girls lined up against a wall in a casino outside of Phoenix on display for customers,” she said.

“These children were silent and visibly scared,” she continued. “I contacted hotel security. Unsure what to do, security personnel allowed the children to remain at the casino. I have found that Native Americans are largely overlooked as victims.”

Such stories, with their lack of specificity, are almost impossible to prove or disprove. And my attempts to contact McCain for an explanation have been unsuccessful.

But the tale of the toddler being trafficked at Sky Harbor included details that reporters could and did run down.

By contrast, McCain’s claims concerning human trafficking and the Super Bowl are easy to debunk, but like Game of Thrones’ Army of the Dead, nearly impossible to kill.

A middle-aged woman, wearing pearls and a dress, in mid sentence, the name "Mrs. Cindy McCain" on a name sign in front of her.
Testifying before the Indian Affairs committee, Cindy McCain stated that Native American girls and women are “all too often trafficked by their own relatives.” (screenshot via Senate video)

While on the Mac & Gaydos program, McCain once again promulgated the myth that the Super Bowl is an unparalleled  magnet for sex trafficking, when this is simply not the case.

She also portrays human trafficking as nearly ubiquitous. Around every corner, beneath every bush is the one-armed man from Twin Peaks ready to snatch your precious daughter and sell her into white slavery.

But this, too, is total hooey and not supported by FBI crime stats. That’s not to say the problem is non-existent, but it does not merit the hysteria that McCain and her cohorts peddle.

A theme of self-delusion and a need to act as a white savior for non-whites runs through McCain’s life and extends back to the charity she founded in 1988, the American Voluntary Medical Team (AVMT), which rushed medical help to war zones and disaster sites in Third World countries.

In 1994, an investigation by the Phoenix New Times revealed that McCain had stolen prescription painkillers from AVMT that were intended for casualties of war or natural disasters. McCain even had a doctor write scrips for the narcotics in the names of others.

That doctor lost his license, while McCain scored a sweet deal from the U.S. Attorney’s Office with a little help from her hubby’s big-shot attorney, John Dowd (who later would represent President Donald Trump). She entered a diversion program and avoided charges that could have earned her 20 years in the slammer if she had been convicted.

As the Post documented in 2008, McCain’s excuses for her opiate addiction didn’t always square. Kinda like her human trafficking propaganda.

Post scribe Kimberly Kindy wrote at the time:

McCain’s drug use became national news during her husband’s first presidential campaign in 2000. Newsweek published a first-person account of her struggle, but it included some errors.

“It began with Vicodan [sic]. In 1989, I had ruptured a couple of disks carrying my 1-year-old, Bridget, in a pack on my back,” she wrote.

But Bridget was not born until 1991. In other accounts, McCain said she hurt her back while picking up her son Jimmy, who was a toddler at the time of her injuries.

After the death of her husband in August 2018 after a bout with brain cancer, many journalists seem willing to give McCain a pass. In the recent WaPo piece, her past issues with swiping opioids was awarded less than a sentence.

Her cheerleading on behalf of a moral panic that has put the lives of sex workers and trafficked children at risk is treated reverentially by the MSM. Her embarrassing use of ethnic stereotypes is excused. Meanwhile, local press dutifully reports every detail of the death of her husband’s pet dog.

When she stumbles, as she did with the Sky Harbor debacle, there’s always a friendly reporter around willing to give her scuffed reputation a shine.

And yet, just as her first charity became an albatross, the truth of her sex trafficking hype promises to lay bare once more the real Cindy McCain, whose perpetuation of an insidious anti-sex work ideology injures the very persons she says she wants to lift up.

For more on Cindy McCain’s exploits, read: John and Cindy McCain Exploit Indian Affairs Hearing with Alarmist Rants About Sex Trafficking and Backpage

and also,

Will McCain Institute Return $1 Million Saudi Donation After Jamal Khashoggi’s Apparent Murder?

If that doesn’t satisfy your McCain jones, take a deep dive with this ebook bio of the senator and his missus in,

The Stains of John McCain: Remember John McCain as a War Monger and Cunning Opportunist and Leave the Hero Worship to His Lackeys

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About Stephen Lemons

Stephen Lemons is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than 20 years of experience covering everything from government corruption to white-supremacist gangs. In addition to Front Page Confidential, his work has appeared in Phoenix New Times, the Los Angeles Times,, and the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report magazine.

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