Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, appearing as a guest on Fox Business Thursday, said that torture “worked” on Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) — and that “that’s why they call him Songbird John.”
After playing video of former Vice President Dick Cheney standing by the use of torture during the Bush administration, Fox Business host Charles Payne asked McInerney about McCain, who said he would vote against Gina Haspel’s confirmation as CIA director because of her refusal to denounce torture as immoral.
“Well she can’t use it anymore because we have determined in Congress that it’s not legal,” McInerney said, referring to Haspel.
“The fact is, is John McCain — it worked on John,” he continued. “That’s why they call him ‘Songbird John.’ The fact is those methods can work, and they are effective, as former Vice President Cheney said. And if we have to use them to save a million American lives, we will do whatever we have to.”
In a statement later on Thursday, Payne said he regretted not challenging McInerney’s remark in the moment.
McCain spent almost six years in a North Vietnamese prison during the Vietnam War. His experiences in captivity made him a rare Republican voice to advocate strongly against torture.
The baseless claim that McCain gave valuable information to his captors echoes political attacks against the senator in the past. Politifact in 2008 rated a flyer claiming as much “Pants on Fire!” and said it was “strongly contradicted by many other accounts” the publication had reviewed.
McInerney last year advocated for the use of nuclear weapons against North Korea. Though millions of people could die as a result, he acknowledged, “they’ll be mostly North Koreans.”
Watch McInerney’s comments below via Media Matters:
This post has been updated.
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