Sen. John McCain caused a stir over the weekend when he claimed that some of the wildfires in his state of Arizona were caused by illegal border crossers.
But on Monday McCain issued a statement insisting that the information came from someone with the U.S. Forest Service.
Some immigration activists accused McCain of wrongly blaming undocumented immigrants for at least one fire and perhaps more based on little to no evidence.
An excerpt from Azcentral.com, the website of the Arizona Republic:
When asked whether illegal immigrants may have played a role in the Wallow Fire, Tom Berglund, a Forest Service spokesman, said, "Absolutely not, according to what I've been told."
"It is frustrating that John McCain is saying things that are baseless and unsubstantiated," said Randy Parraz of Scottsdale, an immigration activist who sought the Democratic nomination in 2010 to challenge for McCain's Senate seat. "Is he connected to reality or trying to fan the flames of fear and intolerance?"
McCain's office issued a statement Monday on behalf of several members of Arizona's congressional delegation which places the blame on a Forest Service official the lawmakers talked with during a tour of the affected area Saturday.
"During our tour of the damaged areas caused by the Wallow Fire on Saturday, we were briefed by senior Forest Service officials, one of whom informed us that some wildfires in Arizona (across our southern border) are regrettably caused by drug smugglers and illegal immigrants. This statement is consistent with what we've been hearing for years, as well as testimony by the Forest Service and media reports dating back as far as 2006.
Politico.com reports that McCain, in an effort to douse the controversy, said the fire he was referring to wasn't the large Wallow fire but less significant ones.