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Vacation in Hell, courtesy of John McCain?

I received a multi-forwarded email yesterday, an account of a vacation in Fiji attributed to a professor of literature in California, and amounting to a character assassination of Senator John McCain, the Republican candidate for President.

That the text rings true is no doubt based on McCain already seeming a bit "high strung", and to the heightened partisanship of this election year. But I have since been informed that it might well be an internet hoax.

I contacted the purported writer of the letter by email, asking for confirmation before posting it here. Her answer, appended below, confirms the various confusions, but also states "the account is not necessarily false", and that I should "pass this information on to anyone interested in this story." I have acceded to her wishes.

My Vacation with John McCain

It was just before John McCain's last run at the presidential nomination in 2000 that my husband and I vacationed in Turtle Island in Fiji with John McCain, Cindy, and their children, including Bridget (their adopted Bangladeshi child). It was not our intention, but it was our misfortune to be in close quarters with John McCain for almost a week, since Turtle Island has a small number of bungalows and their focus on communal meals force all vacationers who are there at the same time to get to know each other intimately.

He arrived at our first group meal and started reading quotes from a pile of William Faulkner books with a forest of Post-Its sticking out of them. As an English Literature major myself, my first thought was 'if he likes this so much, why hasn't he memorized any of this yet?' I soon realized that McCain actually thought we had come on vacation to be a volunteer audience for his 'readings' which then became a regular part of each meal. Out of politeness, none of the vacationers initially protested at this intrusion into their blissful holiday, but people's buttons definitely got pushed as the readings continued day after day.

Unfortunately this was not his only contribution to our mealtime entertainment. He waxed on during one meal about how Indo-Chine women had the best figures and that our American corn-fed women just couldn't meet up to this standard. He also made it a point that all of us should stop Cindy from having dessert as her weight was too high and made a few comments to Amy, the 25 year old wife of the honeymooning couple from Nebraska that she should eat less as she needed to lose weight. McCain's appreciation of the beauty of Asian women was so great that David the American economist had to move his Thai wife to the other side of the table from McCain as McCain kept aggressively flirting with and touching her.

Needless to say I was irritated at his large ego and his rude behavior towards his wife and other women, but decided he must have some redeeming qualities as he had adopted a handicapped child from Bangladesh. I asked him about this one day, and his response was shocking: 'Oh, that was Cindy's idea – I didn't have anything to do with it. She just went and adopted this thing without even asking me. You can't imagine how people stare when I wheel this ugly, black thing around in a shopping cart in Arizona. No, it wasn't my idea at all.'

I actively avoided McCain after that, but unfortunately one day he engaged me in a political discussion which soon got us on the topic of the active US bombing of Iraq at that time. I was shocked when he said, 'If I was in charge, I would nuke Iraq to teach them a lesson'. Given McCain's personal experience with the horrors of war, I had expected a more balanced point of view. I commented on the tragic consequences of the nuclear attacks on Japan during WWII –- but no, he was not to be dissuaded. He went on to say that if it was up to him he would have dropped many more nuclear bombs on Japan. I rapidly extricated myself from this conversation as I could tell that his experience being tortured as a POW didn't seem to have mellowed out his perspective, but rather had made him more aggressive and vengeful towards the world.

My final encounter with McCain was on the morning that he was leaving Turtle Island. Amy and I were happily eating pancakes when McCain arrived and told Amy that she shouldn't be having pancakes because she needed to lose weight. Amy burst into tears at this abusive comment. I felt fiercely protective of Amy and immediately turned to McCain and told him to leave her alone. He became very angry and abusive towards me, and said, 'Don't you know who I am.' I looked him in the face and said, 'Yes, you are the biggest asshole I have ever met' and headed back to my cabin. I am happy to say that later that day when I arrived at lunch I was given a standing ovation by all the guests for having stood up to McCain's bullying.

Although I have shared my McCain story informally with friends, this is the first time I am making this public. I almost did so in 2000, when McCain first announced his bid for the Republican nomination, but it soon became apparent that George Bush was the shoo-in candidate and so I did not act then. However, now that there is a very real possibility that McCain could be elected as our next president, I feel it is my duty as an American citizen to share this story. I can't imagine a more scary outcome for America than that this abusive, aggressive man should lead our nation. I have observed him in intimate surroundings as he really is, not how the media portrays him to be. If his attitudes toward women and his treatment of his own family are even a small indicator of his real personality, then I shudder to think what will happen to America were he to be elected as our President.

Email from the purported writer

I have received thousands of emails and phone calls about the Turtle Island account. I spend many hours every day replying but still can't keep up.

I did NOT write that account (or any version of it, since I gather there are different ones circulating), forward it under my name, or ask for it to be widely distributed.

I have never been to Turtle Island (which costs $2000/day), have never met Senator McCain, was a classics major (not an English Literature major), and don't like pancakes.

When I received it three weeks ago the author was identified as Ana (Anasuya) Dubey, a psychologist in San Francisco. But she was not the sender of the email. I forwarded the account, with full email trail information and the name of the purported author, to three friends with whom I discuss politics. It was further forwarded, and at some point I was identified as the author or as making the story public on behalf of Ms. Dubey. I suspect whoever did this thought that my name and contact information would make the story more credible.

I regret any misinformation which is circulating. This is NOT an organized effort on the part of any political candidate.

The account is not necessarily false. I have spoken to several people who know Ms. Dubey and vouch for its truth. Snopes is investigating and lists its current status as "undetermined." I have just today heard that Ms. Dubey is working with a reporter to substantiate her account. Until the actual author comes forward, however, we will not know whether the account is valid.

I hope you will pass this information on to anyone interested in this story.

Mary-Kay Gamel
Professor of Classics, Comparative Literature, and Theater Arts
Cowell College
University of California, Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz, California 95064

In a postscript, she recommends an article on McCain that recently appeared in Rolling Stone.