Minutes after today's Senate Armed Services hearing had ended, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) sent a memo to reporters outlining John McCainJohn Sidney McCainCindy McCain joins board of Biden's presidential transition team Meet the first woman to run for president Jill Biden shuts down Jake Tapper's question about husband's 'occasional gaffe' MORE's misstatements on al Qaeda -- including one from the hearing.

McCain had referred to al Qaeda, the Sunni-aligned terrorist group, as a "sect of Shiites" in an exchange with Gen. David Petraeus during Petraeus' appearance before the panel (see the video below). McCain was asking Petraeus about the significance of al Qaeda's presence in Iraq, and as Petraeus assessed the threat posed by the group, McCain posited it was "certainly not an obscure sect of the Shiites overall."

McCain corrected himself almost immediately, but the DNC pounced, outlining a history of McCain's al-Qaeda misidentifications.


The DNC outlined five instances in which McCain misidentified al Qaeda as a Shiite or Iran-backed group. It cited a November 2007 claim by McCain that al Qaeda receives supplies and equipment from Iran. It noted that when McCain appeared on Hugh Hewitt's conservative talk radio show March 17 of this year, the Arizona senator claimed Iran had assisted al Qaeda with training and safe haven. The next day, the DNC said, John McCain made the same mistake in Jordan, the media-anointed "gaffe" that caused a stir for McCain on cable news and political blogs, then made it again the day after that in a press release.

The political consequences of today's hearings have been noted as potentially enormous for all three candidates, as each will question Petraeus and Amb. Ryan Crocker. When it comes to McCain, the DNC worked quickly to fulfill that notion.