New York, Sept.14 : Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain has drawn an avalanche of criticism for regularly stretching the truth in attacking Senator Barack Obama's record and positions.
According to the New York Times, McCain has found himself under particularly heavy fire for a pair of headline-grabbing attacks.
First, his campaign twisted Obama's words to suggest that he had compared Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, the Republican ice-presidential nominee, to a pig with "You can put lipstick on a pig; it's still a pig."
In the second instance, the paper claims that McCain falsely claimed that Obama supported "comprehensive sex education" for kindergartners.
"Those attacks followed weeks in which Mr. McCain repeatedly, and incorrectly, asserted that Mr. Obama would raise taxes on the middle class, even though analysts say he would cut taxes on the middle class more than Mr. McCain would, and misrepresented Mr. Obama's positions on energy and health care," the paper says.
It also claims that a McCain advertisement called "Fact Check" was itself found to be "less than honest" by FactCheck.org, a nonpartisan group.
In an interview Friday on the NY1 cable news channel, a McCain supporter, Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, called as "ridiculous" the implication that Obama's "lipstick on a pig" comment was a reference to Palin, whom he also defended as coming under unfair attack.
The paper says that in recent days, McCain has been increasingly called out by news organizations, editorial boards and independent analysts like FactCheck.org., and most have cried foul on McCain penchant for blowing issues and comments out of proportion.
The paper believes that McCain's "Straight Talk" image is taking a hammering, and could prove detrimental to his White House bid.
"I think the McCain folks realize if they can get this thing down in the mud, drag Obama into the mud, that's where they have the best advantage to win," says Matthew Dowd, who worked with many top McCain campaign advisers when he was President Bush's chief strategist in the 2004 campaign, but who has since had a falling out with the White House.
"If they stay up at 10,000 feet, they don't," he added.
Some who have criticized McCain, have accused him of blatant untruths and of failing to correct himself when errors were pointed out.
McCain, for his part, stoutly defends his ads, saying: "Actually they are not lies, and and have you seen some of the ads that are running against me?"
Obama too has been criticized for advertisements that have distorted McCain's record on schools financing and incorrectly accused him of not supporting loan guarantees for the auto industry.
But it is clear that John McCain would rather lose his integrity than lose an election, says Hari Sevugan, a spokesman for the Obama campaign.
The NYT believes the McCain advertisements are devised to draw the interest of bloggers and cable news producers, but not necessarily always intended for wide, actual use on television stations.
It also says that the campaign has been selective in its portrayal of Sarah Palin.