Internet Rehashes Unsubstantiated Rumor About McCain; LA Times Reporter Apologizes

Kevin Pratt and his wife, Tashi-King Pratt, were featured in a 2010 New Times story.
Kevin Pratt and his wife, Tashi-King Pratt, were featured in a 2010 New Times story.
Jamie Peachey

Social media metrics were set ablaze this week after a story circulated that Senator John McCain had once turned down care to an Arizona resident who had the same type of brain cancer McCain was recently diagnosed with this week.

Amid the outpouring of support for the senator from politicians across nation, Los Angeles Times reporter Jessica Roy insinuated that some dramatic irony was taking place. In a now deleted tweet, Roy wrote, "My friend's husband died of glioblastoma in AZ. They wrote a letter to McCain begging for his help. He advised them to move."

Savvy Twitter users located this friend and identified her as Tasha Pratt-King, who was the subject of a 2010 Phoenix New Times article, "'Til Death Do Us Part ..."  about her husband Kevin "Wash" Pratt's diagnosis.

The article details the couple's struggle to stay insured under the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System. Former Phoenix Times reporter Sarah Fenske describes the couple's desperation as they called local, state, and even federal politicians for help.

But there is no mention of McCain in the story, which has been the most-read article at phoenixnewtimes.com since McCain's diagnosis was announced Wednesday.

In a response to the story resurfacing, Pratt-King posted to Facebook.

"We wrote to McCain in 2010 to beg him to help Wash keep AHCCCS insurance. McCain sent us a letter back saying it might be best to move out of Arizona because he did not consider health insurance (and thus, access to health care itself) a human right."

Kevin died in September 2012.

Social media users and journalists alike pressured both Roy and Pratt-King to produce this letter but both replied that the letter was likely in a box somewhere. Pratt-King's post has since been deleted and she tweeted that she would post the letter if she found it.

After the story took off at a national level. Roy issued an apology on Twitter for posting a tweet that "did not meet my employer's standards for verification and publication."

McCain has been conservative on health care issues, but he would not have been involved in any decision to change the state law that regulated AHCCCS.

Neither Roy nor Pratt-King responded to a request from comment from New Times. McCain's Washington office declined comment.

For now, McCain is battling the aggressive brain cancer. However, he has remained active on Twitter and has promised his fellow members of Congress that he will return to the Senate soon.


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