Life and death of John McCain

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Why the Russian state media doesn’t recognize Arizona’s Senator

Thursday, October, 25 marked the two month anniversary of the death of the esteemed Arizona Senator, John McCain. Alex Gorbachev, a Russian journalist and Humphrey Fellow at ASU, has worked tirelessly to counteract the myths about the late senator propagated by the pro-Kremlin media.

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The death of U.S. Senator John McCain was one of the most discussed topic in world news. In Russia, whose president Vladimir Putin was frequently criticized by Senator John McCain, state-owned media made false statements about him even after his death. They described him as a “primary Russophobe of the United States”, and an enemy of the Russian people. Russian liberals and democrats have another opinion – former prime-minister Mikhail Kasyanov called John McCain an example of patriotism, courage and fortitude.

One of the largest Russian cable news outlets, NTV,  claimed that the American “hawk” John McCain was known as an opponent of Russia, and called the country a major enemy of the United States. McCain never stated that the Russian people were an enemy to the United States- only Putin and his regime.

NTV also called McCain a man “overwhelmed by a thirst for revenge”, after being tortured while a prisoner of war in the Vietnam war.

Other major Russian news media – state owned television channel VGTRK denied that the torture ever happened. Before McCain’s death, VGTRK aired a story claiming that he lied about it to further his domestic political campaigns. The story included an interview with a Vietnamese man claiming to be McCain’s former prison guard, who stated that McCain was never tortured.

Russian senator Alexey Pushkov – one of the conductors of the Kremlin’s foreign policy – in his interview to Russian media called  John McCain a “graphic illustration of the US trend towards total hegemony”.

Senator John McCain and Cindy McCain campaign, 2008. Photo by

Pushkov said that McCain’s policy was doomed to failure from the very beginning: “In geopolitical terms, he has failed. He was in favor of the war in Iraq – the United States was defeated, he was behind the war in Libya – this war led to a disaster”.

Pushkov also claimed McCain as an “extremely cynical politician”.

Russian state owned agency RIA Novosti in the opinion article, reminded its audience about “fierce Russophobia” and “radical militarism” of John McCain.

RIA Claimed, that “the compilations of his statements and political initiatives is ideally suited to the title “The Book of Hatred.” According to the article, “many Americans celebrating the death of its ideological enemy McCain”.

Pro-Kremlin media also quoted a head of the Federation Council Committee for International Affairs Konstantin Kosachev, who called McCain “a mirror of the era of a cold war, in which he grew up and formed as a politician”.

“He is a symbol of epoch of dividing the world into “their own” and “strangers”, – Kosachev said, paying tribute to the Republican as a politician – a bright and strong senator.

Leader of Russian LDPR party, extreme right politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky claimed McCain as an ideological enemy of Russia, “the anti-Russianness of the America”.

“He was shot down by  a Russian missile and was imprisoned for five years, hiding his hatred for our country, because he understood that Vietnam is just a battlefield,” – Zhirinovsky said. “Do not regret about the loss of a man who did not want anything good for Russia”, Zhirinovsky emphasized.

While Russian state TV and officials heavily criticized him, Russian liberals admired McCain.

Senator John McCain holds town hall meeting in Orlando, Florida, September 15, 2008.

Independent Russian media outlet “Meduza” called McCain a “conservative, freethinker and a rebel”. The outlet reminded, that McCain led a campaign to ban the use of torture – including for those who suspected of terrorism.

“McCain also consistently criticized the Russian authorities, – says “Meduza”, – but he never considered himself as a Russophobe”. In the interview to Meduza, McCain earlier made a consistent critic of the incitement of the new Cold War.

Mikhail Kasyanov, the former Prime Minister of Russia, now one of the leaders of the Russian opposition, released a statement, claiming senator John McCain “one of the most principled and influential politicians in the United States”.

Kasyanov emphasized, that McCain became a “legend of American politics and a symbol of patriotism, courage and fortitude”.

Despite the fact, that Russian authorities and propaganda for many years accusing him of Russophobia, it was a primitive lie, Kasyanov said. ”I have known John for many years, visited his house in Arizona. And I can firmly say that he loved and respected Russia and its people more than all the current Russian senators all together. Yes, he was intolerant towards Putin’s regime, but Russia and our people were greatly respected by him, considered our country as an important partner”.

Kasyanov quoted McCain’s speech appeal to the citizens of Russia: “I believe in you. I believe in your ability to self-government and your desire for justice and a world of open opportunities. I believe in the greatness of the Russian people. I believe in your right to create a civilization worthy of your aspirations and sacrifices. I criticize your government not because I’m anti-Russian, but because I want to destroy the falsifications used by the rulers of Russia to preserve their power and justify corruption. I’m not anti-Russian. I’m pro-Russian, more pro-Russian than the regime that governs you today.

I declare this because I respect your dignity and I am sure that you deserve the opportunity to live much better in a country where the economy is thriving and creating benefits for many, not just for a handful of powerful. You must live in a state of law, where the laws are clear, fair and applied consistently and impartially. I hope to see the day it happens.”

John McCain passed away and didn’t see the day of Russia’s liberation from the Putin’s regime, Kasyanov said.

“But the name of John McCain will always be remembered in the United States and around the world. His memory will live forever!