McCain Scrambles To Defend Comments Linking Illegal Immigrants To AZ Fires

June 20, 2011 6:33 pm ET — Salvatore Colleluori

Senator John McCain

Over the weekend Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) attracted controversy for statements he made regarding the fires ravaging Arizona. In a question and answer session recorded by CNN, McCain stated that there was "substantial evidence that some of these fires have been caused by people who have crossed the border illegally."

Despite the criticism he received from Latino civil rights advocates, McCain doubled down on his comments this morning in an email to his press list, by blaming the media for "inaccurate press reports":

There have been several inaccurate press reports regarding Senator McCain's comments at a press conference on Saturday in Springerville, AZ while on a tour of the Wallow Fire damaged area.  For clarification, Senator McCain specifically stated: "There is substantial evidence that some of these fires have been caused by people who have crossed our border illegally," (Arizona Republic, June 19, 2011) referring to blazes in southern Arizona, not the Wallow Fire.

To back up his claim, McCain's communications director supplied quotes from various newspapers, including one asserting that "[c]auses of fires include ricocheting bullets, campfires, welding equipment and possibly ignition by smugglers or illegal immigrants."

A far cry from "substantial evidence," an Arizona Forest Service representative has stated that there is, in fact, "no evidence" that the fire was started by illegal immigrants. Then again, McCain isn't always known for adding evidence to his illegal immigrant claims — as seen in comments he made last year claiming illegal immigrants are purposely causing traffic accidents.

Even without evidence, McCain is determined not to have his record sullied. In his last of three releases on the issue he signed up fellow Arizona Republicans Sen. Jon Kyl and Reps. Jeff Flake and Paul Gosar to legitimize his theory. In a stunning three-paragraph release, the four Arizona delegates not only affirmed McCain's comments about illegal immigrants but went on to complain that "it's unfortunate that some are inserting their political agenda into this tragedy." Unfortunate indeed.