From NBC's Bethany Thomas
What began as a typical chat session with traveling reporters on the plane from Atlanta to New Orleans quickly became a testy exchange with McCain. The senator was questioned on the details of a conversation with former presidential nominee John Kerry in 2004 about being his potential running mate.
The topic came up earlier this morning during a town hall at the headquarters of Chic-Fil-A, where an employee asked if McCain would consider John Kerry as a running mate for this election cycle.
McCain answered in Atlanta that his and Kerry's political views are too different. "I just totally disagree with them," McCain said. "He is a liberal Democrat... I am a conservative Republican. When we had that conversation in 2004, that's why I never even considered such a thing."
Pressed further aboard the plane by a reporter as to whether he did in fact have a conversation with Kerry, McCain showed his infamous temper.
Elisabeth Bumiller of the New York Times asked, "Senator, can I ask you about Senator Kerry. I just went back and looked at our story, the Times story, and you told Sheryl Stolberg that you had never had a conversation with Kerry about being about vice president..."
McCain testily replied, "Everybody knows that I had a private conversation. Everybody knows that. That I had a conversation. There's no living American in Washington -- that knows that, there's no one."
McCain: "And you know it, too. You know it. So, I don't even know why you ask."
Bumiller: "Well, I ask because I just read…"
McCain: "You do know it. You do know it."
Bumiller: "Because I just read in the Times in May of '04 you said…."
McCain: "I don't know what you may have read or heard of, I don't know the circumstances. Maybe in May of '04 I hadn't had the conversation…"
Bumiller: "But do you recall the conversation?"
McCain: "I don't know, but it's well known that I had the conversation. It is absolutely well known by everyone. So do you have a question on another issue?"
Bumiller: "Well can I ask you when the conversation was?"
McCain: "No. nope, because the issue is closed as far as I'm concerned. Everybody knows it. Everybody knows it in America."
Bumiller: "Can you describe the conversation?"
McCain: "No, of course not. I don't describe private conversations."
Bumiller: "Okay. Can I ask you…"
McCain: "Why should I? Then there's no such thing as a private conversation. Is there (inaudible) if you have a private conversation with someone, and then they come and tell you. I don't know that that's a private conversation. I think that's a public conversation."
Bumiller: "Okay. Can I ask you about your (pause) Why you're so angry?"
McCain: "Pardon me?"
Bumiller: "Nevermind, nevermind."
McCain: "I mean, it's well known. Everybody knows. It's been well chronicled a thousand times. John Kerry asked if I would consider being his running mate."
McCain: "And I said categorically no, under no circumstances. That's very well known."
The 2004 New York Times piece in question ends in this way: "If Mr. McCain is offered the vice-presidential spot, people close to Mr. Kerry say, the request will come from the candidate himself and not through the campaign's vice-presidential vetting process."
"Asked if Senator Kerry had made such an offer, Mr. McCain said no without hesitation. But asked if the two men had ever discussed it, even casually, he paused for a moment. 'No,' he said finally. 'We really haven't.'"