McCain fends of Tillman criticism; supports McChrystal

Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Wednesday he will continue to reach out to the family of Pat Tillman, even though the slain Army Ranger's mother accused him of "playing dumb" at Tuesday's confirmation hearing of Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal to lead U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

McCain also said he will support McChrystal for the appointment, a day after the general apologized for his role in reporting the circumstances of Tillman's death.

McCain said he had written Tillman's mother, Mary, to offer to ask McChrystal any particular questions during Tuesday's hearing but she declined. Mary Tillman was quoted Wednesday by CNN criticizing McCain for "playing dumb" and accused McChrystal of "lying."

"I talked to Mrs. Tillman and then wrote her a letter as well, telling her that we'd be glad to ask any questions that she might have concerning General McChrystal and his involvement, and she declined to
do so," McCain said.

McCain said he will support McChrystal's promotion--which has not yet come before the full Senate-unless Tillman's family comes forward with any questions.

"I'll continue to maintain my commitment to the Tillman family and I'll ask any questions they want to ask of Gen. McChrystal," McCain said.

McChrystal headed the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command at the time of Tillman's death in 2004 and oversaw the former NFL player's citation for a Silver Star. McChrystal apologized to the Senate panel on Tuesday for the fact that the award paperwork did not mention that Tillman's death was caused by friendly fire.

--J. Taylor Rushing