She told radio hosts for KTAR News that it was an example of “if you see something, say something,’ the Department of Homeland Security motto.
“I came in from a trip I’d been on and I spotted – it looked odd,” McCain, co-chair of the governor’s Arizona Human Trafficking Council and widow of former senator John McCain, stated on the show.
“It was a woman of a different ethnicity than the child, this little toddler she had, and something didn’t click with me. I tell people, trust your gut. I went over to the police and told them what I thought, and they went over and questioned her.”
“And by God, she was trafficking that kid,” McCain clearly stated.
The radio show hosts were horrified.
“No way!” one said.
“And you said a toddler?” the other asked.
“Yes,” McCain claimed. “A toddler. It was a toddler. She was waiting for the guy who brought the child to get off the airplane.”
However, there’s one big problem with the story… it’s not completely true.
The Phoenix Police Department disputed the claim on Wednesday. No actual trafficking had taken place.
McCain was forced to issue an apology.
“At Phoenix Sky Harbor, I reported an incident that I thought was trafficking,” she tweeted on Wednesday. “I commend the police officers for their diligence. I apologize if anything else I have said on this matter distracts from ‘if you see something, say something.’ ”
Officials told KTAR and other reporters on Wednesday that investigators conducted a welfare check on the child while at the airport following McCain’s warning, but found “no evidence of criminal conduct or child endangerment.”
McCain said that she hoped her ‘statements’ didn’t lead other people to stop warning authorities if they suspect something.
But, this isn’t the first time a person with a child of another race or ethnicity has been suspected of trafficking.
“In December 2017, a white Arizona man said he was accused at the same Phoenix airport of trafficking his own 16-year-old daughter, whom he and his wife adopted from China. The man, Brian Smith, told ABC 15 that police approached him at a terminal as soon as he got off the plane and said a flight attendant ‘had some concerns’ about his daughter.”
“Southwest Airlines sent a ‘heartfelt apology’ to the family, adding that flight attendants had been trained to flag possible human trafficking.”
“I don’t like to accuse anyone of anything,” the girl’s mother, Renee Smith, told reporters. “But if Georgianna was a Caucasian child, I don’t believe this would have happened.”
Many people wonder about the sort of body language that would lead to such suspicions and think about their own relationships with their children and wonder what would lead to such claims.
Something similar happened again last May to Lindsay Gottlieb, the women’s basketball coach at the University of California at Berkeley.
“She said that a Southwest Airlines employee asked her to “prove” that her 1-year-old biracial son was really hers. The employee at Denver International Airport asked her to serve up the boy’s birth certificate.”
“She said because we have different last names. My guess is because he has a different skin color,” Gottlieb wrote on Twitter.
The airline said in a statement it was sorry “if our interaction made this family uncomfortable. That is never our intention.”
Many people argue that it’s better to err on the side of caution in these cases. If nothing is wrong, great. And although it might cause mild embarrassment, the fact that just one claim that was accurate could possible save the life of a child victim seems worth the risk.