Police Refute Cindy McCain’s Claim That She Stopped Human Traffickers

Cindy McCain at an NFL game
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Cindy McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain, runs the McCain Instituite, which has programs that are meant to combat human trafficking. McCain claimed in a radio interview this week that she personally prevented a human trafficking incident at an airport, but police say that’s not what happened.

According to Arizona Family, a website for a pair of local TV stations in that state, Cindy McCain appeared on a radio show called Mac & Gaydos, on which she told a story about how she spotted a woman with her child and, suspicious, notified nearby police.

“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 said in the interview, as reported by the TV station. “I went over to the police and told them what I saw, and they went over and questioned her, and, by God, she was trafficking that kid.”

However, police said Wednesday that “there was no evidence of criminal conduct or child endangerment” when they looked into the incident. McCain later tweeted that “At Phoenix Sky Harbor, I reported an incident that I thought was trafficking. 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.'”

The story is especially strange in that McCain and her late husband have an adopted daughter, Bridget, from Bangladesh, and that she was once herself “a woman of a different ethnicity than the child.” The McCains’ daughter, infamously, was the subject of racist robocalls during the 2000 Republican primaries in South Carolina, as Vanity Fair reported at the time.

It’s also a story that recalls an incident from 2016, when a California mother went viral with a Facebook post claiming that she had spotted two men following her and her children around an IKEA, and jumped to the conclusion that the men were there to abduct and traffic the children. As Snopes and others pointed out, the incident had little in common with any of established tropes of human trafficking, which doesn’t typically involve abductions of children from their mothers in crowded stores in broad daylight, much less in maze-like stores like IKEA.

Cindy McCain married John McCain in 1980, and they remained married until John McCain’s death from cancer last summer.