Longform

Opiate for the Mrs.

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Meissner says both Smith and Cindy McCain told him that she had completed a diversion program. "Then they put out a statement saying that--quote, inaccurate press accounts, unquote--had made it sound as though she had already completed the diversion program," Meissner says. "So I confronted them to that effect, and Jay Smith said that he was telling me what the lawyers were authorizing him to say and he said he didn't know what a diversion program was."

All of the McCain camp's wild talk of the diversion program and twisted investigation chronology no doubt rankled federal prosecutors and DEA agents, who are not able to comment on a case under investigation. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Phoenix actually issued Cindy McCain's statement about the inaccurate press accounts. The release went on to say that she had merely applied for the diversion program. The statement also indicated that McCain had agreed to reorganize AVMT, and pay for the cost of the federal investigation.

Accounts of Cindy McCain's drug treatment and exactly when her husband learned of her addiction don't jibe.

Phoenix Gazette columnist John Kolbe, who compared Cindy McCain's addiction to her husband's captivity in a Vietnamese POW camp, devoted a paragraph to the revelation that it was John Dowd who informed the senator that his wife was an addict in January 1994. County records show that Dowd was representing Cindy McCain in talks with the DEA in May 1993.

Both Kolbe and McEachern reported that McCain had checked into a drug rehab clinic in Wickenburg earlier this year.

But in their report, county attorney's investigators state flatly: "Mrs. McCain admits that she acquired a drug dependency for Percocet because of a back problem and received rehabilitation in Wickenburg Arizona in 1991 & 1992."

Dowd, after agreeing to a phone interview with New Times on Monday afternoon, changed his mind. Jay Smith and John and Cindy McCain did not respond to requests for interviews.

As is his habit, Tom Gosinski rose on Monday, August 22, and turned on a morning news show. He was nearly floored by what he heard.

"They announced that in the next segment they would be discussing Mrs. McCain . . . and that she was a drug addict," he says.

"I had no idea the story was coming out."
After more than two years of tumult, Gosinski felt a tremendous burden slip from his shoulders. That morning, co-workers at America West who had doubted Gosinski's claims approached him to apologize.

"I felt really good that the story was out. . . . I also felt like this thing was coming clean--everything that I had said, everything that I had suggested to the DEA when I first went to them and everything that I had been talking about for a year and a half."
That was Monday. On Tuesday, news of Romley's extortion investigation broke. Reporters flocked to Gosinski's workplace, seeking interviews. By Thursday, the papers were quoting John McCain as calling Gosinski a liar.

By Saturday, Gosinski was almost too rattled to tell his side of the story. But he did. After nearly five hours of answering questions, he struggles to answer a query about his feelings toward Cindy McCain.

"I feel bad for Cindy. And I truly do. Cindy was an addict; she's admitted to it. [But] I don't think that excuses the things she's done to obtain drugs or the way she treated people."

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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at amy-silverman.com.
Jeremy Voas