The Truth About Ross Perot's Relationship With John McCain

The late Senator John McCain left a long and influential legacy that many politicians, including both Democrats and Republicans, fondly recall. Along with two bids for the presidency — the more recent which pitted him against Barack Obama — McCain was known to show respect to those even with opposing viewpoints and values, Slate reported.

But not everyone looked at McCain with the same degree of esteem. Ross Perot, who also ran for president twice (once as a third-party candidate and once as an independent) was no fan of McCain. According to Perot, the respectful sheen that McCain gave off to others was nothing but a façade. "McCain is the classic opportunist," he said. "He's always reaching for attention and glory."

Per Rolling Stone, Perot claimed that, after returning from overseas, McCain left his first wife, Carol, because she'd developed a limp following a car accident. While McCain was imprisoned in Vietnam's infamous Hỏa Lò Prison during the Vietnam War, Carol took care of their children, The Daily Mail reported, yet, when he returned home, McCain saddled up with a former rodeo beauty queen, whom Perot called a "poster girl with big money from Arizona." That "poster girl" was McCain's future wife Cindy. The two married in 1980, had four children  (including "The View" co-host, Meghan McCain), and were together until McCain's death in 2018. 

Ross Perot and John McCain had a tumultuous relationship

The bitterness Ross Perot appeared to harbor for John McCain's treatment of Carol was not unfounded. Per The New York Timesthe Reform Party founder was the one who paid for her medical bills while McCain was held captive overseas.

Perot, an advocate for prisoners of war and their families, would later clash with McCain on Richard Nixon's alleged abandonment of POWs in the Vietnam War and the purported ensuing cover-up, The Chicago Tribune reported. According to Perot, McCain was involved in the alleged scheme, as reported by Newsweek. "McCain was adamant about shutting down anything to do with recovering POWs," he said.

Things only got more complicated when the Reform Party began discussing possible support for McCain's 2000 presidential bid, according to The New York Times. At the time, McCain created a platform that rang true with many supporters of Perot. The Reform Party's then-Texas Chairman, Lee Pepper, claimed that "lots of former Perot supporters" were throwing their support behind the senator. Although reporting suggested that Perot was open to supporting McCain if he received the nomination, McCain ultimately lost the nomination to George W. Bush.