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Cindy McCain Has Apologized After Falsely Accusing A Woman At An Airport Of Child Trafficking

"It looked odd, a woman of a different ethnicity of the child, this little toddler she had," McCain told a radio station. "Something didn't click with me."

Last updated on February 7, 2019, at 4:09 p.m. ET

Posted on February 7, 2019, at 1:32 p.m. ET

Christian Petersen / Getty Images

Cindy McCain in 2018 in Glendale, Arizona.

Cindy McCain has apologized for telling a radio station she saved a toddler from becoming a victim of human trafficking last month after Phoenix police refuted her story.

McCain, the widow of Arizona Sen. John McCain, spoke with KTAR on Monday, explaining that people should alert police if they see any signs of possible human trafficking, adding that she had encountered one days earlier.

"That very thing happened to me in the Phoenix airport not last Friday," said McCain, who chairs the McCain Institute’s Human Trafficking Advisory Council and serves as cochair of the Arizona Governor’s Council on human trafficking. "I spotted, it looked odd, a woman of a different ethnicity of the child, this little toddler she had. Something didn't click with me."

She went to say she always tells people to trust their gut, so decided to take action.

"I went over to the police and I told them what I thought and they went over and questioned her, and by god, she was trafficking that kid," McCain told KTAR. "She was waiting for the guy who bought the child to get off an airplane."

However, Phoenix police disputed that the child was being trafficked.

Phoenix police spokesperson Armando Carbajal confirmed in a statement that officers had conducted a welfare check on a child at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport around 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 30 at the request of McCain.

During the welfare check, "officers determined there was no evidence of criminal conduct or child endangerment," Carbajal added.

The confusion was first reported by the news publication Arizona Family.

McCain posted an apology to Twitter Wednesday, but not for the false accusation. Instead, she said she was sorry for distracting from the "see something, say something" call to action.

"I apologize if anything else I have said on this matter distracts from 'if you see something, say something,'" she wrote.

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”

McCain did not immediately respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News, and it's unclear if the different ethnicities between the child and mother were the only factor in her decision to contact law enforcement. (McCain herself has a daughter she adopted from Bangladesh.)

But in her KTAR radio interview, she also asserted that human trafficking is a prevalent problem.

"You see it pretty much everywhere, you just have to know what to look for," she said.


This story has been updated with information on Cindy McCain's family.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.