PITTSBURGH (Reuters) – Presidential candidate John McCain, who once sang in jest about bombing Iran, on Tuesday reacted to a report of rising U.S. cigarette exports to the country by saying it may be â€œa way of killing â€˜em.â€
McCain, known for acerbic comments and for sometimes firing verbally from the hip, was responding to a report that U.S. exports to Iran rose tenfold during President George W. Bushâ€™s term in office despite hostility between the two states.
A rise in cigarette sales was a big part of that, according to an Associated Press analysis of seven years of U.S. trade figures.
â€œMaybe thatâ€™s a way of killing â€˜em,â€ McCain said to reporters during a campaign stop in Pittsburgh. â€œI meant that as a joke, as a person who hasnâ€™t had a cigarette in 28 years, 29 years,â€ he added, laughing.
He declined further comment on the report.
At a campaign meeting in South Carolina last year the Arizona senator, asked if there is a plan to attack Iran, began his answer with a variation on the lyrics of a well-known pop song, Barbara Ann.
â€œYou know that old Beach Boys song, Bomb Iran?â€ he said, then sang â€œBomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iranâ€ before discussing what he considered Iranâ€™s serious threat to Israel and international security.
Tension is high between the two countries over Iranâ€™s nuclear program, which Washington says is aimed at making an atomic bomb but Tehran says is for generating energy. There has been media speculation of a possible U.S. or Israeli military strike against Iranâ€™s nuclear facilities.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by David Storey)