McCain cancels fundraiser with controversial Texan

June 14, 2008 6:56:34 PM PDT
Questions from the media prompted Republican John McCain to cancel a fundraiser at the home of a Texas oilman who once joked that women should give in while being raped. The Texan, Republican Clayton "Claytie" Williams, made the joke during his failed 1990 campaign for governor against Democrat Ann Richards. Williams compared rape to the weather, saying, "As long as it's inevitable, you might as well lie back and enjoy it." He also compared Richards to the cattle on his ranch, saying he would "head her and hoof her and drag her through the dirt."

Williams' comments made national news at the time and remain easy to find on the Internet. Even so, McCain's campaign said it hadn't known about the remarks.

"These were obviously incredibly offensive remarks that the campaign was unaware of at the time it was scheduled," McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said. "It's positive that he did apologize at the time, but the comments are nonetheless offensive."

The campaign said it would not return money Williams had raised for McCain because the contributions came from other individuals supporting McCain and not from Williams. Williams told his hometown newspaper, the Midland Reporter-Telegram, that he had raised more than $300,000 for McCain.

The Washington Post said the campaign, when it initially was contacted by the Post and ABC News, questioned why the story was newsworthy; later in the day, the campaign canceled the fundraiser, which had been scheduled for Monday.

The flap comes as McCain's campaign reaches out to women and to backers of Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton. McCain began a women-focused outreach effort in recent days, sending a well-known female supporter, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, to campaign in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

And Republicans have criticized McCain's Democratic rival, Barack Obama, for failing to vet an adviser, Jim Johnson, who resigned when questions about his home mortgage deals involving Countrywide Financial Corp. became a distraction for Obama. McCain had accused Obama of hypocrisy for speaking out against Countrywide's role in the subprime mortgage crisis.

Richards defeated Williams to serve one term as Texas governor; she lost re-election in 1994 to George W. Bush. Richards died in 2006 after a battle with esophageal cancer.