WASHINGTON — First there was Joe the Plumber. Is Joe the Hothead next?
Joe McCain said Friday he'll withdraw from campaign activities for his brother, GOP presidential nominee John McCain, after calling 911 to angrily complain about traffic. Joe McCain has apologized for making the call.
The candidate's younger brother, who lives in Alexandria, Va., told Washington radio station WTOP he was returning from a campaign event in Philadelphia around 2 a.m. on Oct. 18 when he got stuck in traffic on Interstate 495 at the Wilson Bridge. Police say the call was made about 1:30 a.m. Oct. 21.
Frustrated because of the traffic, Joe McCain called 911 to find out what was going on. The operator asked him to "state your emergency."
"Well, it's not an emergency, but do you know why on one side at the damn drawbridge of 95 traffic is stopped for 15 minutes and yet traffic's coming the other way?" Joe McCain said.
The operator asked him if he was calling 911 to complain about traffic. McCain then uttered an expletive and hung up the phone.
McCain told WTOP that he thought his cell phone was on mute.
After hanging up with 911, McCain said he called Alexandria police to ask them about the traffic on the bridge and got a similar reaction.
"I did not mean to swear at the officers themselves," McCain said. If he were in their situation, "it would have really frosted me too and I absolutely understand their reaction."
Joe McCain said: "I feel terrible about having hurt the campaign over this incident. I won't be doing any more campaigning because of that." He said he's going to write a note of apology to the 911 operator and to the Alexandria police and he hasn't spoken to his brother, the candidate, about the incident.
"He's not going to be happy about it, I'm sure," Joe McCain said.
McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds said: "Joe McCain recognizes his mistake and has apologized. We are moving on."
One of John McCain's rallying cries in his campaign has been to highlight the concerns of Joe the Plumber, an Ohioan named Joe Wurzelbacher who has become the central thematic element in speeches by McCain and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
They note that Joe the Plumber accused Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama of fostering tax plans that would keep him from buying the two-man company where he works.
McCain's brother has been in the news on other occasions recently.
Joe McCain, speaking at an event in early October in support of his brother, called two Democratic-leaning areas in Northern Virginia "communist country."
"I've lived here for at least 10 years and before that about every third duty I was in either Arlington or Alexandria, up in communist country," the younger McCain, a Navy veteran, said at an event in Loudoun County, Va. Joe McCain then apologized, but the remark reportedly drew laughter at the event.
About a week later, the candidate's brother sent an e-mail blasting the campaign's "counter-productive" strategy.
"Let John McCain be John McCain," Joe McCain wrote in the e-mail. "Make ads that show John not as crank and curmudgeon but as a great leader for his time."
McCain's brother was sharply critical of unidentified top campaign officials who "so tightly 'control the message'" that they are preventing reporters from speaking with those, like himself, who know the candidate best.
Associated Press writers Gillian Gaynair in Washington, Sarah Brumfield in Baltimore and Mike Glover in Albuquerque, N.M., contributed to this report.
On the Net:
WTOP _ http://www.wtop.com/