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A Video Of John McCain Defending Obama To A Racist Voter Has Gone Viral

"No, ma’am. He’s a decent person and a family man.”

Last updated on August 26, 2018, at 9:39 a.m. ET

Posted on August 26, 2018, at 5:03 a.m. ET

As tributes continued to pour in from around the world following the death of Sen. John McCain, the late politician's admirers are praising his patriotism and commitment to democracy.

Alex Wong / Getty Images

Some people have been recirculating a video of McCain on the campaign trail in 2008, in which he defended his Democratic opponent Barack Obama to a woman referencing a racist birther conspiracy.

View this video on YouTube

youtube.com

“I can’t trust Obama. I have read about him, and he’s not, um...he’s an Arab,” the woman said, approaching McCain at a town hall in Lakeville, Minnesota, in October 2008.

McCain then cut the woman off and took back the microphone. “No, ma’am,” he said. “He’s a decent family man [and a] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what the campaign’s all about. He's not [an Arab]. Thank you.”

McCain, in fact, defended Obama twice that night. First, when another supporter said he was "scared" of an Obama presidency, McCain replied: "I have to tell you, Sen. Obama is a decent person and a person you don’t have to be scared of as president of the United States."

The responses were met with heckles, boos, and a smattering of light applause, according to news reports published at the time.

Writer Stephen King called it McCain's "finest moment."

John McCain's finest moment (for me) came in 2008, when a woman at a rally referred to Obama as an Arab. "No, ma'am," McCain replied. "He's a decent family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with." That's manning up.

Former Obama aides and supporters expressed their gratitude for McCain's courage in standing up to bigotry and racism directed at his political opponent.

As a @BarackObama 2008 campaign staffer, I will never forget John McCain having the courage to stand on the stage and call out his own supporter, defending Barack Obama against bigotry and hatred. We need a whole lot more of that today. #RIPSenatorMcCain https://t.co/fCbR9LFNsx

Some people contrasted McCain's words with the more aggressive style of President Donald Trump, who, incidentally, was a vocal proponent of conspiracy theories regarding Obama's citizenship during the Democrat's presidency.

I'll always remember one John McCain's finest moments: In a packed auditorium full of Republican bigots, a woman w/the mic said abt Obama: "I have read abt him ... he's an Arab." McCain said "No, ma'am ... He's not." Something Trump would've NEVER had the human decency to do.

Others said that the moment embodied McCain's commitment to his principles, even when doing so cost him politically.

John McCain was an ACTUAL American hero. A man that lived his life with honor and upheld the principles of sacrifice, service, and perseverance. I may not have agreed with his politics but I have no hesitation in saying I respected the hell out of him. #RIPJohnMcCain https://t.co/rQ7wxfvaY1

And some people pointed out that the graciousness McCain displayed toward his opponent is largely absent in today's hyperpartisan climate.

I turned 18 in 2008. The first Presidential race I was eligible to vote in was between Barack Obama & John McCain. McCain was far from perfect, but I'll always remember how he defended Obama. That took guts. And integrity. Both of which are sorely lacking in Washington today.

"He was a dignified and respectful man," one user wrote, "we need more not less."

@kenolin1 @SenJohnMcCain I recognize Sen John McCain's great service to our country but what is indelibly imprinted on my brain is his defense of the nationality and character of then Senator Barack Obama at a campaign rally in his honor. He was a dignified and respectful man, we need more not less

"Once a hero, always a hero," tweeted author Ali Rizvi.

When John McCain was running against Obama, this is how he responded to a supporter who said she didn’t trust Obama bc he was “an Arab.” Once a hero, always a hero. I also lost my father to cancer and it’s devastating. Wishing you strength, @MeghanMcCain. https://t.co/46C1Iecywy

Not everyone, however, was as impressed by the clip, with some interpreting his remarks to be insulting to Arabs.

Seen this clip a lot in the past 24 hours. Some remarkable things about it. 1)Yes, McCain’s response is classy. But 2), the audience CLAPS at his response. And 3), McCain uses words like “decent” and “family man” as an offset to the word “Arab.” https://t.co/Pn68yUps6r

not usually one to weigh in on how folks grieve / dont grieve / celebrate life and legacy / hold life and legacy accountable, but it is perhaps worth mentioning (once again) that the "not an arab" clip doesn't do what many people seem to think it does.

In a statement reacting to McCain's death Saturday, Obama said that despite differences in their politics and backgrounds, the 2008 presidential opponents had "a fidelity to something higher — the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched and sacrificed.”

"We saw this country as a place where anything is possible — and citizenship as our patriotic obligation to ensure it forever remains that way," Obama wrote.

McCain has asked both Obama and former president George W. Bush — whom the Arizona Republican unsuccessfully challenged for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination — to deliver eulogies at his funeral, according to several news reports Saturday.


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