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McCain family calls GOP committee's use of his image in political attack ad 'unfortunate'

Posted at 10:18 PM, Sep 12, 2018

The family of John McCain, who died last month after a yearlong battle with brain cancer, rebuked the National Republican Congressional Committee on Wednesday for airing an ad in Arizona that uses video of the late senator to attack a Democratic nominee in a contested House race.

"The McCain family believes it is unfortunate that the Senator's image is being weaponized this election season," said Julie Tarallo, spokeswoman for the family. "And they would hope there would be more respect, especially so soon after his passing."

The ad from the National Republican Congressional Committee, airing in Arizona's 2nd Congressional District, uses straight to camera footage from McCain's successful 2016 run against Ann Kirkpatrick, who was at the time challenging the Republican's Arizona Senate seat. In the video, McCain faults Kirkpatrick for not opposing higher taxes and federal spending.

"Ann Kirkpatrick won't oppose higher taxes, she won't oppose more federal spending and she won't oppose increased debts that slow economic growth," McCain says.

A narrator then jumps in: "In 2016, Senator McCain warned us. ... Arizona rejected Kirkpatrick before. It is time to do it again."

Kirkpatrick is running against Republican Lea Marquez Peterson, the Tucson Hispanic Chamber CEO, in the race to replace Rep. Martha McSally in the southern Arizona district. McSally is the Republican nominee for Senate.

CNN currently rates the race lean Democratic.

An aide to Kirkpatrick said the ad was "tacky" and questioned the decision to use "old footage from someone who was buried a week ago."

A spokesman for the NRCC defended the ad, arguing that the spot "speaks for itself."

It's not the first spot that has featured McCain to run after his death.

Tom Malinowski, a Democrat running to represent New Jersey's 7th Congressional District, released an ad earlier Wednesday that featured video of McCain praising the former US assistant secretary of state under President Barack Obama during his confirmation hearing.

"This is a contribution Tom made most of all in the fight here in Congress to end torture and I am forever grateful to him for that," says McCain, who was tortured for five years in a North Vietnamese prison. Before McCain speaks in the ad, soft music plays with a slate that reads, "Forever Grateful."

Benji Schwartz, communications director for Malinowski's campaign, said in a statement that "Tom has been in touch with Senator McCain's representatives throughout the campaign and has kept them in the loop since we initially used the footage back in February, including prior to running this ad. They expressed no objections to Tom using this footage or speaking about his work with Senator McCain."

But Republicans slammed the New Jersey Democrat for running the ad shortly after McCain's passing.

"For Tom Malinowski to use Senator John McCain's kind words in a political advertisement to imply support for Malinowski in his race against Congressman Leonard Lance is wrong, and he should immediately take the commercial down," said Matt Brooks, the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition. "To wait until the passing of Senator McCain to release a political ad featuring his kind words, and implying support for Malinowski, a claim that McCain is no longer here to refute, is disgusting."

Neil Strauss, a spokesman for the Republican Jewish Coalition, said that the NRCC ad is "wholly inbounds," despite their statement about the Malinowski spot.

"These are very different issues," he said. "We know that John McCain didn't think Ann Kirkpatrick would be a good representative of the people of Arizona. We know that Senator McCain disagreed with Kirkpatrick on almost every important policy position at issue in the AZ02 race."