McCain began his speech at a town hall meeting at the Southwest Airlines Phoenix headquarters Monday morning by telling the hundreds in the audience that “the world has never been in more turmoil.”
He mentioned a growing refugee crisis, Chinese aggression in the South China Sea, and, of course, the Islamic State — better known as ISIS or ISIL — and the threat it poses to the world.
“When you look at what they're doing, it's astounding. It's almost impossible to understand . . . They are evil people who have taken an honorable religion and perverted it to an extent that's dangerous,” he said, going on to note how “unfortunate” he feels it is that the Obama administration “doesn't have a strategy to fight ISIS.”
He spoke about the horrible beheading videos and how women are systematically raped as a weapon of war, but emphasized that “when it gets personal, that's when it gets more poignant.”
growing anti-Islam movement centered in Arizona, a movement that's made headlines around the country and is threatening to stir up even more turmoil in the months ahead.
When asked about that group of people, particularly the antics of local resident Jon Ritzheimer — organizer of the Rally for Free Speech protest and co-organizer of the upcoming global rally against Islam — McCain came up blank.
“I'm not familiar with that movement,” the Senator said before going off on a tangent about how "unequivocally, without a doubt, the religion of Islam is an honorable and reasonable religion, [and that] ISIS has nothing to do with the reality of Islam.”
In a follow-up question, he was asked how, as the senator of a state simmering with anti-Islam fervor, he would deal with what looks to many like a powder keg ready to explode.
Looking slightly annoyed, McCain said, “Frankly, I think most citizens in this country and in Arizona know that Islam is a peaceful religion. I've never heard of this movement, and I like to think I keep up with everything going on.”
He looked relieved when the next few questions asked by audience members concerned airspace modernization and the deregulation of the airline industry, but his stiff posture and “I'm not amused” face resurfaced when he was asked about the latest development in the ongoing Planned Parenthood controversy.
In the past few weeks, a group calling itself the Center for Medical Progress released a series of undercover videos purportedly showing Planned Parenthood officials saying that the organization harvests and sells fetal tissue.
Planned Parenthood denies the allegations and says the videos were edited to distort the truth. Several states, including Arizona, and a handful of subcommittees in the U.S. Senate and House have launched official investigations into Planned Parenthood and threatened to cut off funding.
During Monday's meeting, McCain was asked specifically about a report produced by an independent forensic video team concluding that even the full-length, supposedly unedited videos were, in fact, edited and that given the doctoring of the film, a judge might be reluctant to accept the tapes as legitimate evidence should the matter go to court.
The 10-page report, sent to Senate and House leadership last week, highlighted that of the five videos analyzed, there are “at least 42 splices where content is cut and edited together to create the appearance of seamless conversations . . . In some cases, these splices completely change the meaning of statements.”
“Listen, I don't know who did this report, but I saw the video with my own two eyes,” he said, cracking a little smile. “No matter how they're edited, they're still disgusting in my view.”
He dismissed the reporter who had asked the question with a wink.