Cindy McCain Said She Saw Human Trafficking at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. Phoenix Cops Say Otherwise.

screenshot of Cindy McCain during an interview with CBS This Morning co-host John Dickerson that aired on November 16, 2018
Cindy McCain, opening her big yap on an earlier occasion (screenshot via CBS This Morning)
Cindy McCain told a local radio station that she'd intervened in a human-trafficking incident at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. Police investigated and found no criminal act.

Cindy McCain, the widow of the late Arizona Senator John McCain and now board chair of the McCain Institute for International Leadership, recently claimed she’d intervened in a human-trafficking incident at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The Phoenix Police Department promptly looked into it and found…nothing of the sort.

During a February 4 interview on KTAR (92.3 FM)’s Mac & Gaydos showMcCain spoke about sex trafficking, then recounted an incident she claimed to have witnessed about a week earlier.

“I came in from a trip I’d been on and I spotted — it looked odd — it was a woman of a different ethnicity than the child, this little toddler she had, and something didn’t click with me,” McCain told hosts Mac Watson and Larry Gaydos.

She said that when she told police what she’d seen, “They went over and questioned her, and, by God, she was trafficking that kid.”

McCain didn’t stop there.

She said she learned that the woman was “waiting for the man that bought the child to get off an airplane.” The occurrence, she said, was an affirmation of her maxim, “If you see something, say something.”

Concluded McCain: “You see it [trafficking] pretty much everywhere. You just have to know what to look for. And that’s what I had to learn in the beginning.”

On Wednesday, February 6, two days after the interview aired, the Phoenix Police Department released a statement asserting that no criminality was involved in whatever Cindy McCain thought she witnessed.

The statement:

“On January 30, 2019 at approximately 1:26 p.m., Phoenix Police officers assigned to Sky Harbor International Airport conducted a Check Welfare on a child at the request of Mrs. Cindy McCain. During the Check Welfare, officers determined there was no evidence of criminal conduct or child endangerment.”

Police also encouraged “all customers visiting the airport to report any suspicious activity to police and/or airport personnel.”

A local spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal law-enforcement agency that also investigates such incidents, told Front Page Confidential that the agency was “not aware” of a human-trafficking incident at Phoenix Sky Harbor and referred all questions to local police.

McCain, the co-chair of Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s Human Trafficking Council, has promulgated various myths about human trafficking for years, often conflating the offense with sex trafficking and prostitution.

The three terms have distinct definitions. Human trafficking is a federal crime in which adults are induced via force, fraud, or coercion into sex work or other labor; the term also applies to minors induced into such circumstances via any means. Sex trafficking is a subset of human trafficking that involves only commercial sex (i.e., sex work of any type). Prostitution is commercial sex among consenting adults.

Front Page Confidential attempted to reach the McCain Institute for a response but have yet to hear back. But after the police department released its statement, Cindy McCain took to Twitter.

“At Phoenix Sky Harbor, I reported an incident that I thought was trafficking,” she tweeted. “I commend the police officers for their diligence. I apologize if anything else I have said on this matter distracts from ‘if you see something, say something.’”

For Further Reading:
“Sex Trafficking Conspiracy Theorists Peddle Same Old Lies in the Lead-Up to Super Bowl LIII”
“John and Cindy McCain Exploit Indian Affairs Hearing with Alarmist Rants About Sex Trafficking and Backpage”

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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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