Republican Senate candidate Kelli Ward gave a half-hearted apology at a press conference on Monday after suggesting that the family of late senator John McCain timed an announcement about McCain ending medical treatment to hurt her campaign.
Speaking to reporters after a disastrous weekend of controversy, Ward pivoted to attack the media and exchanged barbs with journalists in the room.
"I do understand how many could have misconstrued my comments as insensitive, and for this, I apologize," Ward said. "But again, the intention of my comments were in no way directed at Senator McCain or his family – and I hope this narrative is now accurately reported."
Ward is competing in tomorrow's three-way Republican Senate primary, in which she trails Congresswoman Martha McSally in the polls.
On Saturday, Ward replied to a campaign photographer on Facebook who mused that McCain might have released an announcement on ending treatment to siphon media attention away from Ward's bus tour.
"I think they wanted to have a particular narrative that they hope is negative to me," Ward wrote.
McCain died soon after Ward made her comment, which was later deleted.
At the press conference at her campaign office in Tempe, Ward reiterated her condolences for the McCain family. But she also said that her comments were aimed at a media that "sometimes might hope for a narrative that would hinder the momentum of our campaign."
"The media quickly ran with a false narrative that I was being insensitive to Senator McCain at a time when he found himself in dire straits," Ward said. "To be clear, my comments were in no way directed at Senator McCain or at his family or his team."
Reporters immediately pressed Ward for her past comments criticizing McCain, including Ward's call for him to resign because of his cancer diagnosis.
Yet Ward seemed to deny her well-documented call for McCain to step down after the senator announced he had cancer last summer. Ward also raised questions about McCain's health and age during her 2016 primary challenge to his Senate seat.
Ward said those previous comments apply to any politician who can't do the job to the fullest extent.
"You have to put the people and the country and the business of our nation before yourself," she said.
Ward also defended herself for a tweet on Monday morning that said, "Political correctness is like a cancer!"
Political correctness is like a cancer!— Dr. Kelli Ward (@kelliwardaz) August 27, 2018
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While the tweet seemed to reference the weekend's controversy, Ward's choice of analogy was tone-deaf. McCain died from a deadly form of brain cancer called glioblastoma.
Reporters questioned Ward on the tweet at the press conference, but Ward pushed back again. She argued that conservative voices like hers are being silenced by political correctness. "So political correctness, yes, is exactly like a cancer," she said.
Ward said that she wants more "civil discussions – not like what I've been getting on social media, especially from the radical left."
Does Ward think John McCain is a hero? "I do," Ward said, just as she sees all veterans as heroes.