McCain attempts to fan the flames

There are massive wildfires sweeping Arizona, causing considerable damage in recent weeks to over 500,000 acres. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) toured some of the most affected areas over the weekend, and decided it’s time to start pointing fingers.

“There is substantial evidence that some of these fires are caused by people who have crossed our border illegally,” McCain proclaimed, pointing to nothing in the way of substantial evidence. He went on to say that immigrants “set fires in order to divert law enforcement agents and agencies from them,” adding that part of the solution to the wildfire problem “is to get a secure border.”

Not surprisingly, the comments aren’t going over well in the Latino community. Angelo Falcon, the president of the National Institute for Latino Policy, told CNN, “The degree of irresponsible political pandering by Sen. McCain has no limits. With the lack of evidence, he might as well also blame aliens from outer space for the fires.”

But the Republican senator says there’s “substantial” evidence. Is that true or isn’t it? Justin Elliott followed up with McCain’s office and got an interesting response.

McCain did not detail the “substantial evidence” for his claim, so I inquired about it with his spokeswoman, Brooke Buchanan. She told me in an email Sunday that the senator “was given the information by a Forest Service official during his visit to the Wallow fire damaged area on Saturday.” (That fire, in the eastern part of Arizona and New Mexico, has burned more than half a million acres.)

A spokesman for the agencies fighting the Wallow fire, however, told ABC that while the fire is believed to be human-caused, he knows of “no evidence” that illegal immigrants were involved.

What’s more, a U.S. Forest Service official told CNN yesterday that while it appears that an “escaped campfire” initiated the widespread blaze, there’s nothing to suggest immigrants who entered the country illegally were involved.

As far as McCain is concerned, is the Forest Service lying? Not at all, the senator’s office said. McCain was simply talking about a different fire.

Got that? McCain toured the Wallow fire in Southeastern Arizona, spoke at a press conference for reporters covering the Wallow fire in Southeastern Arizona, talked about immigrants as being responsible, but was really just talking about some other fire.

And to think, some find it difficult to take John McCain seriously.