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Senate candidate, alum takes heat for campaign staffer's criticism of McCain hours before he died

Kelli Ward speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2016.
Kelli Ward speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2016.

On Saturday, Arizona Senate candidate Kelli Ward's campaign suggested on social media that the announcement on Sen. John McCain stopping his cancer treatment was timed to damage her candidacy. A few hours later, McCain died.

The comments have landed Ward, Trinity '91, in hot water, as the former state senator faces a close primary race Tuesday. 

One of Ward's campaign staffers questioned on Facebook if McCain's statement was released on the same day that Ward kicked off her campaign bus tour "to take media attention off her campaign." Ward's response, which has since been deleted along with the original post, was that "they wanted to have a particular narrative that they hoped was negative" for her. 

Ward later explained that her comments were targeting the media, not McCain and his family, according to an Arizona Central report

"The media loves a narrative..." wrote Ward in a follow-up comment which has also since been deleted. "I feel compassion for him and his family as they go through this. It’s not the McCains creating a narrativeit’s the media making something out of nothing."

Kelli Ward Facebook message
Special to the Chronicle

Since McCain's passing, Ward has expressed her condolences on Twitter.

"We are saddened to hear of the passing of [McCain]," Ward wrote in a tweet. "His decades of service will not be forgotten by the men and women of Arizona. May God grant the McCain family comfort and peace during this difficult time."

This is Ward's second campaign for Senate. She is currently polling below frontrunner Martha McSally, but above former sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was recently pardoned by Trump for criminal contempt. 

In 2016, Ward ran against McCain as the hard right candidate. She was an early and vocal supporter of then-Presidential nominee Donald Trump and has campaigned on a platform that includes increased fortification of the U.S.-Mexico border and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Ward has not shied away from controversy

In June 2016, she told Breitbart that McCain was "directly responsible" for the rise of the Islamic State, calling his foreign policy "dangerously distracted." 

Her statement came after McCain said he "misspoke" when he said President Barack Obama was responsible for the rise of the Islamic State, and that he had meant Obama's national security decisions were to blame for the group's rise. 

A few months later, Ward shared a tweet from an anti-Semite and her campaign later issued a press release in response to the media attention that followed. 

“I believe we are all created in the image of God and that our Creator loves us all the same," Ward said at the time. "I am appalled by the accusations of racism. I am sickened that my opponent has stooped so low. I pray that the next generation will know less of this hatred. I pray for the healing of our land.”

With this latest scandal, Ward has blamed the outrage on a culture of political correctness.

"Political correctness is like a cancer!" she tweeted Monday morning.

Likhitha Butchireddygari

Follow Likhitha on Twitter

Class of 2019

Editor-in-chief 2017-18, 

Local and national news department head 2016-17

Born in Hyderabad, India, Likhitha Butchireddygari moved to Baltimore at a young age. She is pursuing a Program II major entitled "Digital Democracy and Data" about the future of the American democracy.


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