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Posted at 2:58 PM ET, 04/15/2008

Cindy's Recipegate

By Michael Dobbs


John and Cindy McCain

"Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch non-stick pan over medium heat. Add fish to pan and cook until rare, about 2 minutes per side. Alternatively, cook until done to your likeness. Slice thin and distribute among 4 serving plates. Serve with a generous portion of Napa cabbage slaw."
--Recipe for Ahi Tuna from FoodNetwork.com.

"Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch non-stick pan over medium heat. Add fish to pan and cook until rare, about 2 minutes per side. Alternatively, cook until done to your likeness. Slice thin and distribute among 4 serving plates. Serve with a generous portion of Napa cabbage slaw."
--"McCain Family Recipe" from johnmccain.com.

In an effort to demonstrate that the McCains are regular folks, "in touch" with ordinary Americans, the McCain website has been featuring a series of "McCain family recipes" for such dishes as Ahi Tuna with Napa Cabbage and Farfalle Pasta with Turkey Sausage. "Cindy's recipes" were part of a special section of the McCain website highlighting the accomplishments of McCain's wife, Cindy, the heiress to a beer distributing empire.

The image of the picture-perfect Cindy McCain whipping up a quick Ahi tuna or passionfruit mousse for her husband in the midst of the rigors of the campaign trail was always a little jarring. It turns out three of the recipes on the McCain site were lifted, practically verbatim, from the Food Network site, while a fourth was a slightly modified version of a Rachael Ray recipe.

The Facts

The Fact Checker would love to claim credit for unearthing this delicious tidbit. Alas, responsibility for launching "Recipegate" must go instead to an eagle-eyed New York attorney, Lauren Handel, who came across the identical recipes on the McCain and Food Network websites while Googling a specific list of ingredients. The cut-and-paste job was first reported by the Huffington Post.

After queries from reporters, the McCain campaign has now taken down all the "McCain family recipes" from its website. But they live on in Google cacheland here, and here, and here.

Here is a screengrab of identical recipes from the McCain website and the Food Network:

In an attempt to distance Cindy McCain from "Recipegate," the McCain campaign is employing the tried-and-tested "intern" defense. I received the following e-mail from campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds:

Apparently a web intern added Rachael Ray to our policy team without her knowing it. He was swiftly dealt with and the page is down for revision. Our apologies to Food Network -- but according to our press assistant the passion fruit mousse is really worth trying. PS - If we get a Pinocchio on this one I expect him to be wearing a chef's hat.

The Pinocchio Test

Let's stipulate at the outset that the future of the Republic will not be affected by this scandal, which does not rise to the level of either "Tuzlagate" or even "Bittergate." We should also note the unashamedly elitist character of the recipes, which seem more attuned to the chardonnay-and-brie set than to small town Pennsylvania. That said, the McCain campaign deserves a very special Pinocchio, complete with chef's toque.

(About our rating scale.)

By Michael Dobbs  | April 15, 2008; 2:58 PM ET
Categories:  1 Pinocchio, Candidate Record, Candidate Watch  
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