08/08/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

McCain Surrogate Pushes False China-Drilling Claim

During a conference call Thursday to attack Barack Obama's energy policy, a surrogate for Sen. John McCain touted a long-proven-false argument that the U.S. needed to pursue offshore drilling because China was doing the same off the Cuban coast.

"We have China drilling 50 miles off of Cuba and Sen. Obama still opposes drilling off shore," said Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Stewart Iverson. "It is absolutely absurd that we don't use our own oil... it makes absolutely no sense to many of us out here in real America. It is frustrating that Senator Obama and Democrats say, well you have to do something else."

The claim that China is drilling off the Cuban coast has been cited repeatedly by a bevy of Republican politicians as a rationalization for energy exploration. But it is false and has been debunked in multiple press accounts. (TPM Election Central and Think Progress have been tracking it very closely.) When Vice President Dick Cheney repeated the ruse in early June, his office was forced to issue a statement that was, albeit half-hearted, an apology.

"It is our understanding that, although Cuba has leased out exploration blocks 60 miles off the coast of southern Florida, which is closer than American firms are allowed to operate in that area, no Chinese firm is drilling there."

Later in Thursday's conference call, I asked McCain campaign spokeswoman Nancy Pfotenhauer whether she too, and by extension the campaign, believed that China was drilling near Cuba.

Contradicting Iverson, she acknowledged that the claim was not factual.

"I too have heard the statement made before about china drilling 50 miles off of Cuba. When I looked into that a little bit, and I must confess I do not have all the details in front of me, it seemed like they had planned to drill but had not either received approval or begun drilling. The important point is that it is crucial giving the supply restraints and national security, it is important for us to take more control of our supply future and our destiny. And part oft hat is increasing domestic production and lifting the federal moratorium."

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