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Cindy McCain apologizes after reporting human trafficking incident that police deemed unsubstantiated

Updated 3:04 PM ET, Sat February 9, 2019

Washington (CNN) - Cindy McCain, the wife of late Sen. John McCain, apologized this week after she reported what she believed to be a child trafficking attempt by a "woman of a different ethnicity than the child" -- only to be refuted by the police.

"At Phoenix Sky Harbor, I reported an incident that I thought was trafficking," McCain wrote on Twitter 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.'"

During an interview with a local radio station on Monday, McCain was discussing human trafficking at the Super Bowl, when she later claimed that she stopped a child trafficking attempt at Phoenix airport last week.

"I came in from a trip I'd been on and I spotted — it looked odd — it was a woman of a different ethnicity than the child, this little toddler she had, and something didn't click with me," McCain told Arizona radio station KTAR. McCain herself has a daughter of a different race — she and her late husband adopted their daughter Bridget from Bangladesh.

She added, "I went over to the police and told them what I saw, and they went over and questioned her. And by God, she was trafficking that kid."

McCain claimed that the woman was "waiting for the guy who bought the child to get off an airplane."

Phoenix Police spokesman Sgt. Armando Carbajal confirmed that officers "conducted a Check Welfare on a child at the request of Mrs. Cindy McCain" on January 30.

"During the Check Welfare, officers determined there was no evidence of criminal conduct or child endangerment," Carbajal said in a statement.

McCain has been a longtime advocate for the victims of human trafficking and is currently the co-chair of the Arizona Governor's Council on Human Trafficking.

The McCain Institute, which counts combatting human trafficking as one of its initiatives, said in a statement that McCain was only "thinking about the possible ramifications of a criminal act not the ethnicity of the possible trafficker" when she reported what she believed was a case of trafficking.

"Her hyper sensitivity to looking for trafficking in this instance was not correct, but it should in no way distract from the broader importance that we all have a responsibility to be aware of this kind of crime," the institute said in a statement. "This incident should in no way discourage anyone from reporting potential trafficking issues to law enforcement.


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