The glowing praise U.S. Sens. Jon Kyl and John McCain heaped on Richard Carmona 10 years ago led to some harsh words by Arizona’s senior senator for the Democrat who hopes to be his seatmate.
McCain today denounced an ad released the day before by Carmona’s campaign that features McCain and Kyl praising Carmona during his 2002 confirmation hearing for his nomination as surgeon general. Kyl and McCain are supporting Congressman Jeff Flake, the Republican nominee against Carmona for the Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Kyl.
“We had a lot more faith in Mr. Carmona than we turned out to be justified,” McCain said in a conference call with reporters. “The point is that when we’re at confirmation hearings we support fellow Arizonans and we support the choice of the president. That has nothing to do with the present campaign. The present campaign has Mr. Carmona supporting earmarks, which is corruption, which Congressman Flake and I have been fighting all of our political careers.”
McCain called the ad dishonest and accused Carmona of trying to give voters the impression that the two GOP senators support him in the U.S. Senate race.
“Clearly that’s what it was designed to do. Is a confirmation hearing 10 years ago that important unless it was designed to deceive people?” McCain said.
The ad shows footage of Kyl and McCain throwing their support behind Carmona during his confirmation hearing to be former President George W. Bush’s surgeon general.
“Dr. Carmona’s inspiring story is the living embodiment of the American dream. He’s one of the most decorated policemen in Arizona,” McCain said in the hearing.
Kyl told his Senate colleagues, “One might call him a man for all seasons. His unique background will serve him well and serve us well.”
Small lettering on the screen shows that the testimony comes from the 2002 surgeon general confirmation. And it displays a quote from Kyl in which he said, “I join my colleague in strongly recommending him.” The on-screen display shows the entire quote, in which Kyl says he strongly recommends Carmona for surgeon general, though the audio cuts Kyl off before he says he what he is recommending Carmona for.
In a joint statement on Thursday, Kyl and McCain called the ad “deeply dishonest” and the Flake campaign called it “shameful.”
Carmona spokesman Andy Barr denied the senators’ claims, saying the ad is clear that they are only endorsing him for the surgeon general position.