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McCain Denies He Considered Abandoning Republican Party

Reported by Ellen - March 14, 2008 -

During his interview with John McCain last night (3/13/08), Sean Hannity asked McCain about discussions he reportedly had with Democrats about leaving the Republican Party in 2001. McCain acknowledged that he had met with a group of Democrats about it but claimed that he had said "categorically, absolutely not.” But, according to the Democrats, McCain discussed it with them at a series of meetings over the course of two months. Predictably, Hannity did not press McCain about the discrepancies. With video.

Hannity said to McCain, “You once met with Daschle and Kennedy and Edwards, talk about leaving the Republican Party.”

McCain shook his head.

“Not true?” Hannity asked.

McCain started to say no, then said, “Well, they asked to meet with me and I met with them and I said categorically, absolutely not… The fact is that I thought it was, um, incredible. I am a proud Republican conservative and I made that very clear.”

McCain added that he was “very proud to campaign hard for the president in 2000 and campaign hard for his re-election in 2004. I think actions speak a lot louder than words.”

But according to Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and ex-Rep. Tom Downey (D-N.Y.) there were many such discussions held over the course of two months. McCain and his advisor claim there was one meeting and that McCain didn't know the purpose of it.

As The Hill reported,

Daschle wrote (in his book, “Like No Other Time”) that McCain and Chafee “seemed like real possibilities” to bolt their party. He pointed out that few, if any, of McCain’s people were hired by the Bush administration.

“John didn’t think that was right,” Daschle wrote, “that his staff should be penalized like that.”

… Soon after Bush was inaugurated as the nation’s 43rd president, McCain was working with Democrats on many issues, ranging from gun control to healthcare to campaign-finance reform.

McCain’s links to Democrats were so clear that Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) — now a close ally of McCain — publicly criticized him in the early part of 2001 for keeping “unusual company.”

Jeffords pulled the trigger on May 24, 2001, throwing control of the Senate to Democrats. Chafee and McCain then broke off their discussions with Democratic leaders, according to Democrats.