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  Hensley McCain, Cindy
NameCindy Hensley McCain
Phoenix, Arizona , United States
Born May 20, 1954 (66 years)
ContributorThomas Walker
Last ModifedNikki from Beacon Hill
Jan 20, 2010 01:11pm
Tags Pro-Gay Marriage -
InfoSecond wife of US Senator John McCain
Chair of the Arizona delegation to the 2000 Republican Convention in Philadelphia

Cindy Lou Hensley grew up in affluent circumstances in Phoenix, Arizona, the daughter and only child of James and Marguerite Hensley, who founded Hensley & Company in 1955. She attended Madison Meadows Elementary and was a rodeo queen in 1968. She went to Central High School in Phoenix. She graduated from the latter in 1972, having been a cheerleader there.

Hensley received her undergraduate degree in education and a masters in special education from the University of Southern California. She was a member of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority. There she participated in a movement therapy pilot program that laid the way for a standard treatment for severely disabled children; she published the work Movement Therapy: A Possible Approach in 1978. Declining a role in the family business, she then began a special education teaching career working with disabled children at Agua Fria High School in Avondale, Arizona.

Hensley met John McCain in 1979 at a military reception in Hawaii. He was the U.S. Navy liaison officer to the United States Senate, eighteen years her senior, and in a somewhat troubled marriage to his first wife, Carol. McCain and Hensley quickly fell in love; he divorced Carol in April 1980, and he and Cindy were married on May 17, 1980 in Phoenix. Her father's business and political contacts helped gain her husband a foothold into Arizona politics, and she campaigned with him door-to-door during his successful first campaign for U.S. Congress in 1982.

After several miscarriages, Cindy Hensley McCain gave birth to three children: Meghan (born 1984), John Sidney IV (known as "Jack") (born 1986), and James (born 1988). The family stayed in Arizona; her parents lived across the street and helped her raise her children while her husband was frequently in Washington.

In 1988, Cindy McCain founded the American Voluntary Medical Team (AVMT), a non-profit organization that organized trips for doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel to provide emergency medical care to disaster-struck or worn-torn third-world areas such as Micronesia, Vietnam, Kuwait, Iraq, Nicaragua, India, Bangladesh and El Salvador. She led 55 of these missions over the next seven years; AVMT also supplied treatment to poor sick children around the world. While at Mother Teresa's orphanage in Dhaka, Bangladesh in 1991 — as part of AVMT's assistance team following the 1991 Bangladesh cyclone — she met two infant girls she decided needed to be brought to the United States for medical treatment. She decided to adopt one of the girls (her husband readily agreeing), later named Bridget (who became the McCains' fourth child together), and helped coordinate the adoption of the other little girl, named Mickey, for Wes Gullett, a family friend. In 1993, Cindy McCain and the AVMT were honored with an award from Food for the Hungry.

In 1989, Cindy McCain became addicted to painkillers such as Percocet and Vicodin. She later attributed her addiction to pain following two spinal surgeries as well as emotional stress during her husband's entanglement in the Keating Five scandal of that time, which also involved her role as a bookkeeper who had difficulty finding receipts of Keating-related expenses. The addiction progressed to the point where she resorted to stealing drugs from her own AVMT. During 1992, Tom Gosinski, the director of government and international affairs for AVMT, discovered her drug theft. Subsequently in 1992, McCain's parents staged an intervention to force her to get help; she told her husband about her problem, attended a drug treament facility, began outpatient sessions, and ended her three years of addiction; another surgery in 1993 resolved her back pain. In January 1993, McCain terminated Gosinski's employment on grounds of budgetary reasons. In spring 1993, Gosinski tipped off the Drug Enforcement Administration to investigate McCain's drug theft. Her activities violated federal statutes, so a federal investigation was conducted. McCain's defense team, led by noted Washington lawyer John Dowd, secured an agreement with the U.S. Attorney's office that limited her punishment to financial restitution and enrollment in a diversion program, without anything being made public.

Meanwhile, in early 1994 Gosinski filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against McCain, which he told her he would settle for $250,000. In April 1994, Dowd requested that Maricopa County officials investigate Gosinski for extortion. At this point, the Phoenix New Times was preparing a negatively-cast story about the whole affair and about to publish it. Cindy McCain pre-empted this by publicly revealing her past addiction, stating she hoped it would give fellow drug addicts courage in their struggles: "Although my conduct did not result in compromising any missions of AVMT, my actions were wrong, and I regret them." A flurry of press attention followed, including charges by Gosinski that she had asked him to lie concerning her drug use when the McCains were applying to adopt their baby from Bangladesh and statements by past AVMT employees that Gosinski had once threatened to blackmail her. A few weeks after her announcement, the Variety Club of Arizona canceled its Humanitarian of the Year award dinner in her honor citing poor ticket sales. In the end, both Gosinski's lawsuit and the extortion investigation against him were dropped. AVMT concluded its activities in 1995.

In 1995, McCain founded a new organization, the Hensley Family Foundation, which donates monies towards children's programs in Arizona and nationally, but she was largely a stay-at-home mom.

Although wary of the media, McCain was active in her husband's unsuccessful campaign for President of the United States in 2000. She impressed Republican voters with her looks and elegance at coffee shops and other small campaign settings. She was upset by the notorious smear tactics against her husband in the South Carolina primary that year, which included allegations against her adopted daughter Bridget that she found "despicable", but eventually forgave those responsible. She was chosen as the chair of the Arizona delegation to the 2000 Republican National Convention.

In 2000, she became chair of Hensley & Company. She became actively involved with Operation Smile in 2001, taking parts in trips with it to Morocco, Vietnam, and India. She was honored by the organization in 2005, and sits on its board of directors. She joined the board of directors of CARE in 2005. She is on the board of the HALO Trust, and has visited operations to remove landmines in Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Mozambique, and Angola.

McCain suffered a stroke in April 2004 due to high blood pressure, but after several months of limitations made a full recovery. She has been active and visible in her husband's presidential campaign during 2007 and 2008, including making statements critical of the Bush administration for not deploying enough troops during the Iraq War. She states that the American public wants a First Lady of the United States who will tend towards a traditional role in that position.

DateFirmFavorableUnfavorableDon't Know
03/07/2008-03/10/2008 NBC News/Wall Street Journal (Hart & McInturff) 20.00% ( 0.0) 13.00% ( 0.0) 67.00% ( 0.0)

Title Purchase Contributor

Start Date End Date Type Title Contributor

Date Category Headline Article Contributor
Apr 08, 2013 12:00pm News Cindy McCain, Wife of Senator John McCain, to Star in Play Supporting Gay Rights  Article Homegrown Democrat 
Nov 12, 2010 08:15am Video Cindy McCain Blames Gay Teen Suicides and Bullying on DADT, Her Husband  Article Homegrown Democrat 
Jan 21, 2010 01:00pm News Cindy McCain poses for ad for gay rights group  Article CA Pol Junkie 
Sep 04, 2008 12:00pm Blog Entry Cindy McCain's $300,000 Outfit  Article DFWDem 
Aug 05, 2008 05:30pm News McCain Gaffes, Volunteering Wife For Topless Contest  Article RBH 
Jun 30, 2008 10:15pm Profile In Search of Cindy McCain  Article COSDem 

Importance? 0.00000 Average

Husband John McCain May 17, 1980-Aug 25, 2018
Daughter Meghan McCain 1984-
Son John Sidney "Jack" McCain, IV 1986-
Son James "Jimmy" McCain 1988-
Daughter Bridget McCain 1991-
Mother In-Law Roberta Wright McCain 1912-2020
Stepdaughter Sidney McCain 1966-

  11/04/2008 US First Lady Lost 32.16% (-35.69%)
  09/03/2008 US First Lady - R Primary Won 99.28% (+98.64%)
  08/03/2000 US First Lady - R Primary Lost 0.05% (-99.61%)
  09/04/2018 AZ US Senate - Appointment Lost 0.00% (-100.00%)
AZ US President - Nov 03, 2020 D Joe Biden
US President - Popular Vote - Nov 03, 2020 D Joe Biden