Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was visibly amused on Sunday when he was asked if he had been wrong to say that President Barack Obama’s handshake with Cuban President Raul Castro was like shaking hands with Adolf Hitler.
At the memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela, the U.S. president had briefly greeted Castro moments before taking the stage to note that “too many who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom but do not tolerate dissent from their own people.”
“I mean, what’s the point?” McCain told Public Radio International correspondent Todd Zwillich later that day. “Neville Chamberlain shook hands with Hitler.”
On Sunday, CNN host Candy Crowley asked the former Republican presidential nominee if he regretted the comparison.
“Oh, I think it was a gross exaggeration, but have no doubt that is a great propaganda value for the Cuban government,” McCain insisted. “I don’t think you should shake hands with someone who continues to violate his own country’s human rights. It happened, but it is what it is. And I’m sure that Mr. Castro appreciated it.”
“But to liken the president to Neville Chamberlain, though, seems — did you think in retrospect it was over the top?” Crowley pressed.
“No, I’m sure it was an exaggeration, Candy. If you want me to plead guilty here on CNN, guilty!” McCain said with a satisfied laugh.
“I’m glad you found me guilty,” he added at the conclusion of the interview.
Watch this video from CNN’s State of the Union, broadcast Dec. 15, 2013.