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Andrew Sullivan Flunks a Rorschach Test

John McCain didn't invent any story about Mother Teresa

Andrew Sullivan, fresh off of bending the truth to mean whatever he’d like it to mean about his pre-Iraq position on the war, writes today to accuse John and Cindy McCain of embellishing a very personal story in a crass attempt to achieve political gain with evangelicals.

Part of the McCain Celebrity, as packaged for the evangelical base, is the rescue of two Bangladeshi girls at the behest of Mother Theresa, one of whom, Bridget, they subsequently adopted…The story of how Mother Teresa talked them into it makes it all the more poignant.

The only trouble is: it’s not true.

Sullivan goes on to cite a few instances where it’s said Mother Teresa urged Cindy McCain to adopt. This list consists entirely of: 1) a mention on the McCain website (since corrected), 2) a mention in the intro to an ABC story by an anchor, 3) and a WSJ story, all from this year.

Now, in all my readings of it, I have NEVER seen or heard this aspect of the story, in any way shape or form. And you know, I kinda paid attention to it. I have my own personal reasons for caring about adoption.

I’m missing where John McCain has ever said anything but that the two children his wife brought back were from Mother Teresa’s ORPHANAGE, not that they were personally urged by her to adopt them? It seems clear that the first time this idea ever proceeded from an official McCain source was on his website, and was corrected when someone pointed out the discrepancy.

But Sullivan perceives a far more insidious goal:

This is the pattern:

A story that shows the McCains’ genuine compassion and faith is embellished over the years to make the story a little more perfect, a little more salient, a little better as a narrative. It’s especially important to add these embellishments when your goal is to appeal to a fundamentalist base, when your own prickly, personal and private faith isn’t very marketable. And when your adopted daughter is Bangladeshi, and when that fact has been disgracefully used against you by the Bush machine in 2000, and when some fringes of your base get queasy about multi-racial families, what better way to describe the adoption than as something Mother Teresa herself “implored” you to do? More interesting: the first actual reports of this event do not mention this fact. They are added later.

This is a website error compounded by journalists not doing research. Hardly anything planned, or anything close to a “pattern.” JustOneMinute builds a phenomenal case against Sullivan’s flippant argument, pointing out that John McCain has never been quoted saying anything of the kind. And what’s more:

Well, I’ll tell you what the pattern is – Andrew Sullivan sees an outlandish accusation against John McCain and re-echoes it without doing even a minimum of research. At this point, unless John McCain is to be held accountable for every word of his website there is no story.

Go over to Tom Maguire for a full debunking.

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