Republican John McCain traded jibes with "Tonight" show host Jay Leno, with his age and houses the main target but McCain turned serious to defend his wife's family wealth.
"Could I just mention to you Jay, that in a moment of seriousness, I spent five and a half years in a prison cell, I didn't have a house, I didn't have a kitchen table, I didn't have a table, I didn't have a chair," said McCain, citing his history as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. "I spent those five and half years not because I wanted to get a house when I got back home."
McCain has come under criticism after he confessed he didn't know how many homes he owns with his wife Cindy. The source of the family's wealth is a Phoenix beer distributorship launched by her father.
"I'm very proud of Cindy's father," McCain said. "He's a guy who barely got out of high school, fought in World War II in the Army, came home and made a business and made the American dream."
His father-in-law "made the American dream" with his business success and has a long history of generosity to charities, McCain said.
"We spend our time in a condominium in Washington, a condominium in Phoenix, some time over here in the state of California and then we have a place up in northern Arizona," said McCain, seeking to deflect Democratic criticism that he's out of touch with working families.
"And my friends I'm proud of my record of service to this country, and it has nothing to do with houses," he said.
Most of the exchanges were lighthearted. McCain turns 72 on Friday, and was making his 13th appearance on the late-night program. In his opening, Leno took note of the British setting fire to the White House 200 years ago.
"The White House was saved by the action of one brave soldier — John McCain," cracked Leno.
Leno also touched on the issue of McCain's wealth, noting that Tropical Storm Fay had damaged countless homes, "Most of them belonging to John McCain."
McCain joked about picking a running mate.
"I know you've been asking about who I want to be my running mate," he said. "Wouldn't it be good to have a person you don't know what party they're with, they have no political principles whatsoever, they may need a job about that time. Who can I be referring to?'"
Leno, who is about to leave NBC, demurred.
"I can make more doing a week in Vegas," Leno said.
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