In a speech in Pennsylvania this morning, John McCain said that Barack Obama and the Obama campaign have been attacking Joe Wurzelbacher, better known as "Joe the Plumber," the Ohio man whom McCain repeatedly referenced during the third presidential debate and has been citing on the campaign trail.
"Now, Joe didn't ask for Senator Obama to come to his house, and he didn't ask to be famous," McCain said. "And he certainly didn't ask for the political attacks on him from the Obama campaign." This prompted cheers from the crowd.
"Joe's dream is the American dream to own a small business that will create jobs, and the attacks on him are an attack on small businesses all over this nation," McCain added. "We're not going to stand for it."
Wurzelbacher has criticized the media for its treatment of him, suggesting that the press corps is worried about issues such as whether he's paid his taxes and "any number of silly things that have nothing to do with America." But asked on Fox News yesterday if he blamed either of the campaigns for how he was depicted, Wurzelbacher said he did not.
"Oh, no, no, I think the media pretty much did that all by themselves," he said. "You know, I don't think -- I held no animosity towards either of one them, by no means. No."
I asked the McCain campaign for specific examples of what it considered attacks on Wurzelbacher from Obama and the Obama campaign. "Their campaign has been moving dirt on Joe and their allies in the press and liberal blogs have been going after him," McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said in an email.
He also provided three examples of what he said were attacks. The first was Joe Biden's statement on the "Tonight Show" Friday that he doesn't "know many plumbers who are making $250,000 a year and worried about it."
"We're kind of worried about Joe the fireman, Joe the policeman, Joe the real plumber with a license," Biden added. As media reports have noted, Wurzelbacher does not have a plumbing license.
The second example provided by Rogers involved Biden saying last Thursday, "I don't have any 'Joe the Plumbers' in my neighborhood that make $250,000 a year and are worried." And the third came from Obama, who said on that same day, "How many plumbers do you know making $250,000 a year?"
In an interview after the presidential debate that made him famous, Wurzelbacher told CBS' Katie Couric that, despite his concerns that Obama would raise his taxes, he does not presently make $250,000 per year. Obama says in his administration, taxes would only go up for individuals making more than $250,000.
Obama-Biden spokesman Nick Shapiro told Horserace that McCain's claim is false.
"We're not criticizing Joe – in fact Senator Obama's plan would give him a tax cut – but we are criticizing John McCain's tax plan because it gives billions in tax cuts to corporations while offering no relief to more than 100 million middle class Americans," he said.
UPDATE: Obama responded to McCain's charges that he is attacking Joe the Plumber in Miami today, CBS' Maria Gavrilovic reports, calling the claim a fabrication. "I've got nothing but love for Joe the Plumber," Obama said. "That's why I want to give him a tax cut."