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John McCain called out by Jed Bartlet's aides

May 9, 2008 |  9:42 am

JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- It turns out that hobnobbing with liberal blogger Arianna Huffington and the cast of NBC’s "The West Wing" on the left coast can be a risky proposition for a Republican with White House ambitions.

In Jersey City Friday morning, John McCain emphatically denied a report by Huffington on her blog that he confessed, during a Beverly Hills dinner party in 2001, that he had not voted for George W. Bush after his bitter defeat in 2000. But "West Wing" cast members -- who said in published reports they supported a Democratic ticket -- back up Huffington’s story.

"It’s nonsense," McCain said this morning when a reporter asked about the matter in the Liberty Science Center. "I voted, campaigned for, worked as hard as I could for President Bush’s election in 2000 and 2004. I voted for President Bush. I said so at the time." And McCain is proud of what he saw as his help in getting Bush elected. "I know we’re already in a silly season—but my record stands very clearly of campaigning all over this nation on behalf of the candidacy of President Bush," he said. "I think that some people believe that contributed to the fact that he won that election, and also in the 2004 election."

On Monday, Huffington posted an entry on her website asserting that McCain confessed during the 2001 party that he had not voted for the President. On the Huffington Post website, she explained her long silence by saying ...

... she "felt it was time to for me to tell what I knew," because the press was giving McCain "a pass."

McCain’s longtime aide Mark Salter, who said he spoke directly with McCain about his vote for Bush after the election, quickly dismissed the story as fiction, and said Huffington would "make anything up" to promote her cause of the moment or her new book.

But actors Bradley Whitford and Richard Schiff, who played White House deputy chief of staff Josh Lyman and communications director Toby Ziegler on the show, told the New York Times -- at Huffington’s prompting -- that they too heard McCain’s confession at the dinner party at actress Candice Bergen’s Beverly Hills home.

Whitford told the New York Times and the Washington Post that when a guest asked McCain at the dinner if he’d voted for Bush, McCain put his finger to his lips and mouthed "No way."

Asked about the detailed accounts offered by Huffington, Schiff and Whitford, McCain said he had "no clue" where the story came from.

"I know that I discussed my vote with my wife and family -- and discussed it and said so at the time," McCain said. "In all due respect, this is hardly worth our time. Allegedly this happened eight years ago. I know this is a silly season."

-- Maeve Reston

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