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McCain Defends Reaction to Clinton Jab

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AMANDA LEE MYERS | November 14, 2007 08:06 PM EST | AP

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PHOENIX — Republican presidential hopeful John McCain said Wednesday he responded appropriately after a woman used the word "bitch" to describe Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"She made a comment, I made light of the comment, and then I said very seriously I treated and continue to treat Senator Clinton with respect and I've said that many times," the Arizona senator told reporters at his Phoenix office. He chuckled when a reporter brought it up.

When asked whether he thought the woman's comment was funny, McCain said he reacted that way because he wanted to move on.

"I can't dictate what other people say _ that's not my business," he said. "Nor is it an appropriate role for me to play in a gathering at a restaurant, and if anybody thinks that I should, then I think they have the wrong idea of what gatherings are all about."

At the campaign event on Monday, the woman asked McCain, "How do we beat the bitch?"

McCain laughed along with the crowd as he said, "May I give the translation?"

"That's an excellent question," he added. "I respect Senator Clinton. I respect anyone who gets the nomination of the Democratic Party."

McCain said Wednesday he's sure the New York senator understands.

"Senator Clinton and I have a very good relationship," he said. "She understands I've always treated her with respect, and I'm sure that's been the reaction of her campaign."

Clinton's campaign did not immediately return telephone calls for comment.

On Tuesday, CNN's Rick Sanchez raised the question of whether McCain should have admonished the woman.

"Most people who have seen it are looking at it as a real mistake on his part in terms of the way he handled it," Sanchez said on the cable network's "Out in the Open."

McCain said if the American people watch the entire exchange posted online between him and the woman, he's sure that would be good enough for them, "even if it's not good enough for CNN."

McCain's South Carolina campaign manager, Buzz Jacobs, said in a statement that Sanchez' comments reflect poorly on him and CNN.

Hours later, McCain's campaign was using the controversy to raise money.

Campaign manager Rick Davis e-mailed supporters, saying, "We are asking you to help us fight Rick Sanchez and CNN and stand with John McCain. Please make your most generous contribution from $25 up to the maximum limit of $2,300 to the only candidate who can defeat Hillary Clinton."

McCain laughed Wednesday when a reporter asked if he thought the tactic would help his campaign.

"We ask for money all the time," he said. "I have no idea of its effect. I know that I continue to do what's right, and I'm sure in the eyes of the American people I do what's right, and I treat my opponents with respect."