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McCain hits New York Times for 'shameful' editing of his statement on Bergdahl

U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., speaks to workers at MD Helicopters, Friday, May 30, 2014, in Mesa, Ariz. McCain addressed numerous issues, including the ongoing VA situation, in the town hall style meeting. (AP Photo/Matt York) AP Photo/Matt York

Sen. John McCain's office accused the New York Times late Thursday of editing out part of a statement from the Arizona Republican to make it look like he first supported the Bergdahl prisoner swap that he now opposes.

The Times ran an op-ed late Thursday that said McCain formerly supported the idea of trading members of the Taliban detained at Guantanamo Bay. The paper originally quoted him as saying in February on CNN: "I would support ways of bringing him [Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl] home, and if exchange was one of them I think that would be something I think we should seriously consider."

The office of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., says the New York Times selectively edited his remarks on the Bergdahl swap. (AP Photo/Matt York)

But McCain's full quote started with the caveat, "Obviously I'd have to know the details…," a phrase that the Times omitted in its first version of the op-ed.

McCain Communications Director Brian Rogers said the Times willfully took out that opening line in order to make it look like McCain completely supported the prisoner swap, and has now flip-flopped in order to attack President Barack Obama. But Rogers said McCain was only offering possible support for a swap that depended on the details.

"It's shameful, but not surprising, that The New York Times would purposely and dishonestly edit Senator McCain’s statement in order to totally misrepresent his position," Rogers said. "This is just the latest attack in an increasingly desperate campaign by Obama allies against anyone taking issue with the Bergdahl deal, which is coming under increasing criticism from the president's fellow Democrats."

The Times corrected its online version of the op-ed, but still accused McCain of hypocrisy for opposing the prisoner swap only to score political points against Obama.

"When they could use Sergeant Bergdahl's captivity as a cudgel against the administration, they eagerly did so, loudly and in great numbers," the paper said of Republicans. "And the moment they could use his release to make President Obama look weak on terrorism or simply incompetent, they reversed direction without a moment's hesitation to jump aboard the new bandwagon."

According to a transcript of the CNN interview with Anderson Cooper, McCain said he was not open to releasing the Guantanamo detainees as part of a way to build confidence in talks with the Taliban. He said the idea of swapping prisoners was different, and possibly acceptable, but even then said his support would have to depend on the details.

"I would be inclined to support such a thing depending on a lot of the details."

McCain's communications direct said if McCain had been asked about the specifics of the final prisoner swap deal that the Obama administration has described this week, McCain would have firmly opposed it.

"Had Cooper asked if Senator McCain would support a deal that freed five hard-core Taliban leaders, two of whom are wanted by the U.N. for war crimes for slaughtering thousands of Shiite Muslims, under terms that allowed them to potentially return to the battlefield against America in a year, the answer would have been 'Hell no,' " Rogers said.

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