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By Alexander Lane August 26, 2008

This condom speaks the truth

With Sen. John McCain aggressively courting supporters of Hillary Rodham Clinton, some of the most fervent of which are especially concerned with women's issues, the advocacy group Planned Parenthood has been spreading the word about why it believes women should oppose McCain.

To that end, the group employed one of the more attention-getting novelty items of the campaign thus far on Aug. 25, 2008, handing out condoms at a party near the Democratic National Convention in Denver, each bright-pink package bearing the message "Protect Yourself from John McCain" and one of 10 reasons the group believes voters — especially women — shouldn't vote for him. The group said it plans to distribute 30,000 of the condoms at the convention.

The 10 reasons were various claims about McCain's stances on women's issues, such as the well-known fact that he opposes Roe vs. Wade , and the opinion that he opposes certain "commonsense" funding for contraception and education.

We decided to look at Reason 9: McCain "Said he was 'stumped' when asked whether contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV."

The claim is rooted in a comment — arguably a gaffe — that came during one of the freewheeling conversations with reporters aboard the Straight Talk Express that McCain commonly held earlier in the campaign. Here's a transcript of part of the conversation, which took place in Iowa on March 16, 2007.

And here's the crucial exchange:


Q: "What about grants for sex education in the United States? Should they include instructions about using contraceptives? Or should it be Bush's policy, which is just abstinence?"

McCain: (Long pause) "Ahhh. I think I support the president's policy."

Q: "So no contraception, no counseling on contraception. Just abstinence. Do you think contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV?"

McCain: (Long pause) "You've stumped me."

Q: "I mean, I think you'd probably agree it probably does help stop it?"

McCain: (Laughs) "Are we on the Straight Talk Express? I'm not informed enough on it. Let me find out. You know, I'm sure I've taken a position on it on the past. I have to find out what my position was. Brian, would you find out what my position is on contraception — I'm sure I'm opposed to government spending on it, I'm sure I support the president's policies on it."

Q: "But you would agree that condoms do stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Would you say: 'No, we're not going to distribute them,' knowing that?"

McCain: (Twelve-second pause) "Get me Coburn's thing, ask Weaver to get me Coburn's paper that he just gave me in the last couple of days. I've never gotten into these issues before."

So yes, McCain said he was "stumped" when asked whether he thinks contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV. This is one truth-telling condom.


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