In his first comments on Sarah Palin's "death panel" claims, John McCain is standing by his former running mate.
He doesn't like the phrase "death panels," but he defended the substance of Palin's charge, saying the Democrats have only themselves to blame for the controversy.
In my exclusive This Week interview, I pressed McCain several times on the death panel charge:
STEPHANOPOULOS: The president also says that the debate has been infected by falsehoods. And probably the most notorious one is the one made by your former running mate, Sarah Palin, who said that his bill would encourage death panels that would encourage euthanasia. He called that an extraordinary lie and he is right about that, isn't he?
MCCAIN: Well, I think that what we are talking about here is do – are we going to have groups that actually advise people as these decisions are made later in life and …
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's not in the bill.
MCCAIN: But – it's been taken out, but the way that it was written made it a little bit ambiguous. And another thing …
STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't think that's correct, Senator. The bill, all it said was that, if a patient wanted to have a Medicare consultation about end-of-life issues, they could have it at their request and the doctor would get reimbursed for it, no panel …
MCCAIN: There was a provision in the bill that talks about a board that would decide the most effective measures to provide health care for people, OK? Now, we had amendments, we republican have said that in no way would that affect the decisions that the patients would make and their families. That was rejected by the Democrats and the health committee.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But that's not a death panel.
MCCAIN: So what does – what does that lead to? Doesn't that lead to a possibility, at least opens the door to a possibility of rationing and decisions made such are made in other countries?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, every single independent group that looked at it said it just wasn't true.
MCCAIN: Well, then why did the Democrats turn down our amendments that clarified that none of the decisions that would be made by this board would in any way affect depriving of needed treatments for patients? I don't know why they did that then.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you think Sarah Palin was right?
MCCAIN: Look, I don't think they were called death panels, don't get me wrong. I don't think – but on the best treatment procedures part of the bill, it does open it up to decisions being made as far – that should be left – those choices left to the patient and the individual. That's what I think is pretty clear, which was a different section of the bill.
Watch full interview HERE.
- George Stephanopoulos