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McCain supporter plays up 'Hussein'

From NBC's Kelly O'Donnell
CINCINNATI, Ohio -- One of the speakers before McCain took the stage used some noteworthy language this morning.

Bill Cunningham, who I am told is a radio host here, repeatedly referred to Obama as Barack Hussein Obama -- at least three times. (Hussein is, as most know, Obama's middle name.)

Cunningham's tone was derisive on Obama's positions, and he also spoke very critically of mainstream media accusing the collective media of trying to get Democrats elected.

Rob Portman, former US Trade Rep. under President George W. Bush, followed Cunningham and lightly chided him saying, "You're out of control again." But then thanked Cunningham for supporting McCain.

Portman, who is widely rumored to be in the McCain veepstakes running, endorsed McCain this morning as well.

McCain is not on stage yet.

*** UPDATE *** Two senior McCain advisors say, "We do not agree" with the comments made by radio host, Bill Cunningham at today's event. Advisors say they had no advance knowledge of Cunningham's comments.

The campaign says it invites radio hosts to "warm up the crowd" at some events but that Cunningham has no role in the campaign.

*** UPDATE 2 *** McCain repudiates and apologizes for the comments.
Before reporters could even ask about the provocative speaker, McCain addressed the issue, saying he repudiated the comments and has respect for his Democratic opponents. McCain said the use of "Hussein" as a political jab was not appropriate.

"I never met Mr. Cunningham," McCain said, "but I will make sure nothing like that ever happens again."

McCain accepted responsibility for the speaker while also saying he had not been in the room and had not heard the comments himself. McCain said he did not know how the radio host had been invited but acknowledged there must have been some coordination with his campaign.

McCain also spoke more about his own comments yesterday that the "war will be over soon." He did not give a time for what "soon" means. He reiterated that he accepts that his political fortunes and Iraq may be intertwined. He seemed to be reacting to the print reports yesterday that he had "retracted" his comment that he'd "lose" if he failed to convince the American people that US strategy is working.