Editor’s note: Bridget McCain turned 28 this week, as sister and TV host Meghan McCain celebrated her birthday on social media. This article was originally published on March 22.
Bridget McCain isn’t one to clamor for the spotlight, but this week the “very, very private” youngest daughter of the late Arizona Sen. John McCain spoke out in a very public way to rebuke President Donald Trump for his continued disparagement of her dad.
Big sister Meghan, a co-host on The View, soon sounded her support on TV and on social media.
“Bridget, for the first time ever, has decided she wanted to speak out,” Meghan said on Thursday’s episode.
“She felt inclined to say and tweet this,” Meghan said, referring to Bridget’s two tweets at President Trump on Thursday morning in which she asked him “to be decent and respectful.”
“If you can’t do those two things, be mindful,” Bridget wrote to Trump. “We only said goodbye to him almost 7 months ago.”
In a second tweet, Bridget went on the offensive, casting the president’s fixation on her father as part of his broader narcissism and poor impulse control.
“Even if you were invited to my dad’s funeral, you would have only wanted to be there for the credit and not for any condolences,” she wrote. “Unfortunately, you could not be counted on to be courteous, as you are a child in the most important role the world knows.”
On The View, Meghan said Bridget’s stand was “very brave. She’s very young and she does not speak publicly.”
In a family of seven siblings, including a Navy pilot, TV host and business leader, Bridget can seem the shyest of the bunch. Not so, says her family.
She “shares John’s very dry sense of humor,” mom Cindy McCain told Harper’s Bazaar in 2007.
“She’s the toughest of the four,” Sen. McCain told dadmag.com in 2000. “The youngest always has to be the toughest.”
Here’s what you need to know about Bridget.
Her Incredible Journey Home
The oldest are Doug and Andy, whom Sen. McCain adopted when he married first wife Carol, with whom he had daughter Sidney. McCain and his second wife, Cindy, had three more children — Meghan, Jimmy and Jack — before Cindy took what would prove to be a life-changing trip to a Bangladeshi orphanage in 1991.
There, as Cindy later recounted multiple times, she was particularly struck by the case of two baby girls.
“One had a heart problem the other a severe cleft palate. Cindy was very concerned about their ability to survive and their need for medical treatment, so she decided to bring them here for medical treatment,” McCain told dadmag.com in 2000. “She fell in love with both of them. We decided to adopt Bridget. Two close friends of ours, adopted Mickey, the other child.”
In a speech in 2008, Cindy remembered meeting Bridget this way, according to the New Yorker: “She was sick and tiny and she was only 10 weeks old. And I got to know her a little bit, and I was with her for quite a while.”
Flying back to the U.S., Cindy said she “realized that this child had chosen me and I could not give her up.”
But, Cindy told her 2008 audience, “What you don’t know about this story is I didn’t tell my husband.”
“I landed in Phoenix, Arizona, with this baby in my arms, and in front of a thousand reporters and a whole lot of people he whispered down to me and said, ‘Well, where’s she going to go?’ And I said, ‘I thought she’d come to our house,’ ” Cindy said. “And he looked at her and he loved her just the way I have ever since. And I think that says a great deal about the man.”
As a family friend said in the PEOPLE cover story: Such overseas adoptions “were very odd, rare things then, but Cindy never said anything more than, ‘We have this baby now.’ Just, ‘This is my daughter, she’s from Bangladesh, I couldn’t leave without her.’ ”
The family embraced her, and her siblings grew very protective, especially sister Meghan, according to the ’08 PEOPLE story.
“She has enriched our lives,” Sen. McCain said in 2000. “She’s a wonderful child, a complete part of our family and we love her.”
Speaking with Harper’s Bazaar in 2008, Cindy said Bridget’s siblings “saw no difference; they never did.” Her husband and Bridget bonded quickly.
“He not only took it in stride [Bridget’s surprise return with Cindy from Bangladesh] but loved it, immediately embracing Bridget, who shares John’s very dry sense of humor,” Cindy said. “So she and her dad do pretty well together.”
Happy birthday to my beautiful daughter Bridget! pic.twitter.com/hHDItsXoID— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) July 22, 2015
On the Campaign Trail
Bridget was still a pre-teen when her dad launched his first presidential bid, in 2000, but her age did not shield her from the ugliness of politics.
During the primary campaign in South Carolina that year, voters were targeted by an incendiary insinuation that Bridget, who is dark-skinned, was actually the child of an extramarital affair.
Such tactics — clearly engineered to resonate with the South’s worst racial history — stunned the campaign. As a top aide at the time told Vanity Fair, “The child thing. … I’ve seen the worst form of racist sons of bitches in the world in David Duke, but this was unbelievable.”
McCain withdrew from the race not long after losing in South Carolina and elsewhere. Cindy did not let the world forget what had been done to their family and she cried at her husband’s defeat.
But: ”Losing is not what bothered me,” she said afterward, according to the Times. ”It was how we lost. When they criticized me for having an adopted child of color, that capped it. That was despicable.”
Bridget herself knew nothing of it for several more years. And then she Googled herself.
“Over the years, I was always afraid that someone at school would say something, but they didn’t,” Cindy told Harper’s Bazaar. “It just never clicked that she’d look herself up on the Internet. She was so upset, took it so personally. John and I tried to make Bridget understand that people who say things like that are very wrong; it’s not what we — nor most people — are about.”
“Fortunately,” Cindy continued, “she’s an awfully strong girl.”
According to the Times, Bridget made the discovery of the 2000 smear campaign in 2006 and she spoke up when her father was weighing whether to run again in 2008.
In 2007, Bridget, who was then 16, “summoned Mr. McCain’s aides and asked them to explain in detail what had happened in South Carolina and to give assurances that it would not happen again,” the Times reported.
As Cindy remembered it to Harper’s Bazaar: “When the family gathered to decide if we were going to run, she asked the campaign managers such specific, good questions, I thought, Whoa, okay!”
“She [Bridget] was a very important part of the process in deciding if we were going to run,” Cindy told the Times in 2007. “She wanted to know the whole history of it.”
Bridget made occasional public appearances as her father successfully campaigned for the Republican presidential nomination and went on to challenge Barack Obama.
Then a sophomore at a Phoenix private school, she appeared with the rest of her family at the Republican National Convention and gave a brief interview to Scholastic News. In contrast to the 2000 contest, when she traveled for the campaign, Bridget said she stayed at home for most of her dad’s 2008 run.
“My dad’s best achievement is being a dad and also running for president at the same time,” she said. “He always puts family first!”
Bridget sat for a PEOPLE cover shoot with her family in 2008 but was not quoted. As the Times noted in 2007, her parents declined to let her be interviewed.
But she made her presence felt in other ways. As PEOPLE reported then:
“McCain, mindful that his youngest, Bridget, ‘is feisty from time to time and demands her rights,’ he says, does his best to spend as much time with her as possible, despite the rigors of his campaign. Recently she loaded up his iPod with songs by Usher and other pop stars. But McCain admits that’s roughly like trying to teach a cat to bark. ‘Some of that music I’d never listen to in my wildest dreams,” he says. ‘She pretty much thinks of me as a lost cause.’ ”
Her Life Now
Bridget enrolled at Arizona State University in 2010 and, according to the Arizona Republic, had an interest in special education, a subject her mother taught.
Meghan helped Bridget pack for school, per the Times, and gave her some sisterly advice: “I told her, ‘Do not put anything on Facebook you wouldn’t want pasted on every gossip blog everywhere.’ ”
In contrast to some of her siblings — most notably Meghan, who has built a national media career — Bridget has largely avoided public attention as an adult.
In two joint interviews in 2017 to mark Meghan’s wedding, Sen. McCain and Cindy reflected on the success of their kids.
McCain said then that Bridget was finishing school. (“She’s kind of on the six-year plan,” Cindy noted. “That’s okay though, I’ve been told that’s common so I’m not worried.”)
After her father passed away last summer from brain cancer, a visibly emotional Bridget gave a short Bible reading at his funeral in Phoenix.
“There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens. A time to give birth, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant,” she said, quoting Ecclesiastes.
This week, Bridget spoke up again about her father with her tweets at President Trump.
On Instagram, Meghan wrote that she was “incredibly proud” of her younger sister.
“I love you more than I could ever possibly say,” she wrote alongside a photo of her, Bridget and their dad. “Your strength and grace continues to help carry us all through our grief.”
In their PEOPLE interviews in 2017, Bridget’s parents spoke lovingly of her and all their children.
“We have Meghan in the media. We have Jack McCain in the Navy. We have Jimmy McCain in the Army Guard. And Renee [Jimmy’s wife] in the Air Force,” Sen. McCain said then. “And we are very proud of our daughter Bridget, who is the joy of our life. So we are truly blessed.”
• With reporting by CHARLOTTE TRIGGS