CNN political desk, senior assignment editor
The question clearly caught the candidate by surprise.
John McCain and his wife Cindy were making an unannounced stop at a popular sandwich shop on Tuesday in Pittsburgh. As they sat the counter waiting for their orders, McCain held a quick media availability with the local reporters and the traveling national media pool.
The main questions focused on McCain’s reaction to Prime Minister Maliki’s comments about the US withdrawing from Iraq, McCain's campaigning in the key battleground state, and a possible extension of the emergency loan program for investment banks. McCain’s press secretary tried to end the questioning after the first several, but McCain wanted to take a few more.
The one he didn’t see coming was posed by an AP reporter, asking about a report of a large increase in exports of items like cigarettes to Iran during the Bush administration. McCain’s eyebrows arched as the reporter said cigarettes.
And offering a little humor, which sometimes has gotten him in trouble, McCain said, “Maybe that’s a way of killing them.”
There was laughter in the room, but a reporter said Mrs. McCain poked him in the back after the comment. McCain quickly added, ”I meant that as a joke, as a person who hasn’t had a cigarette in 28 years.” Mrs. McCain corrected him: “29 years.”
In April 2007, another McCain joke about Iran attracted attention, not all of it good. In South Carolina, a voter had asked if there is a plan to attack Iran. Before giving a more substantive answer, McCain started, “You know that old Beach Boys song, Bomb Iran?" Then he sang, “Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran."
McCain ended his answer to the reporter saying, “I’d like to look into it because it’s the first that I heard. But I’d like to look into it and next time we encounter each other, maybe I can have a better answer for you."
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