'He's a decent family man': Watch the moment John McCain defended Barack Obama on 2008 campaign trail

ByDanny Clemens KABC logo
Sunday, August 26, 2018
'He's a decent family man': The moment McCain defended Obama
Sen. John McCain defended then-Sen. Barack Obama as a "decent family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues" when a constituent appeared to question Obama's citizenship during the 2008 campaign.

LAKEVILLE, Minn. -- Just a month before the 2008 presidential election, Sen. John McCain took a political risk to defend his opponent, then-Sen. Barack Obama.

During an October 10, 2008, town hall event in Lakeville, Minnesota, a constituent told McCain that she couldn't trust Obama. The woman called Obama "an Arab" at the height of a conspiracy movement claiming Obama, who was born in Hawaii, was not a natural-born American citizen and therefore ineligible for the presidency.

"No ma'am, he's a decent family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that's what this campaign is all about," McCain said to applause.

Though some have criticized McCain's response as furthering anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiments, the exchange came to be viewed as a defining moment in the senator's decadeslong political career. The Associated Press called it a "reflection of [McCain's] thinking that partisans should disagree without demonizing each other," and the Washington Post named it one of McCain's most courageous political moments.

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Vice President Joe Biden shakes hands with Sen. John McCain after administering the Senate oath of office during a mock swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017.
AP Photo/Kevin Wolf