Karl Rove, the 67-year-old political consultant, who served in the George W. Bush White House and was so close to Bush that a bestselling book called him “Bush’s Brain,” joined the outpouring of tributes to Senator John McCain on Saturday, after McCain died of brain cancer on Saturday afternoon at his home in Arizona, as Inquisitr reported.
But Rove’s admiring Twitter message in remembrance of McCain stood in contrast to his earlier attitude and actions toward McCain. During the Republican primaries in the 2000 presidential election, when McCain was staging a strong run for the party’s nomination against Bush, Rove is said to have orchestrated a baseless and racist smear campaign against McCain in the contentious primary state of South Carolina, a “whisper” campaign that accused McCain of fathering an illegitimate African-American child, according to a history of the South Carolina 2000 campaign published by Vanity Fair Magazine.
Heading into South Carolina as the frontrunner, McCain campaigned while accompanied by his daughter Bridget, a Bangladeshi orphan adopted by McCain and his wife, Cindy, in 1991. But flyers began appearing around South Carolina showing a picture of McCain with his adopted daughter, and stating that McCain was the out-of-wedlock father of a “Negro child,” the Vanity Fair article recounted.
According to The Nation, the smear campaign allegedly orchestrated by Rove against McCain did not stop with the flyers. Voters in South Carolina also received calls from fake “pollsters” purporting to conduct a survey on the question, “Would you be more or less likely to vote for John McCain if you knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child?”
Also at the time, another smear campaign against McCain accused him of suffering from mental illness stemming from his five years in a North Vietnamese prison camp during the Vietnam war. The claim was similar to a later false attack by Rove against Democrat Hillary Clinton, in which Rove falsely claimed that Clinton suffered from brain damage, according to Politico.
Other false allegations about McCain circulated on flyers generally left on car windshields in South Carolina during the 2000 primary campaign, according to the New York Times, accused McCain of committing treason while in the Vietnamese prison, that McCain was secretly gay, and that his wife was a drug addict.
But on Saturday, Rove posted his Twitter message saying, “God Bless John McCain.”
Bush came from behind to win the South Carolina primary, as the New York Times reported, and went on to win the Republican nomination. Rove has denied that he was behind the smear attacks on McCain, saying that McCain “said ‘I’m a victim’ and was angry and complained about it and pointed the finger at Bush,” according to a CNN interview with Rove in 2010.
McCain’s family has continued to be certain that Rove was behind the false attacks. In her 2012 book, McCain’s daughter Meghan McCain called Rove “a pathetic excuse for a human being,” the Huffington Post reported