When Gwyneth Paltrow stirred controversy this week by comparing her daily struggles with Internet trolls to the "dehumanizing" experience of soldiers at war, she messed with the wrong woman: Cindy McCain.
Hearing about Paltrow's comments, the wife of Arizona Sen. John McCain took to Twitter, calling the actress "a joke" and stating that "My 2 sons serving in the military should talk to her." (McCain's son Jimmy served in Iraq as a Marine and her son Jack is a Navy lieutenant.) In an interview on Thursday with HLN Now TV, she went a step further, calling Paltrow's comments "ignorant" and "selfish" and offering to take her to meet with veterans.
"I would encourage Gwyneth Paltrow -- and I would be happy to go with her -- to go sit down with some troops who have served in Afghanistan or Iraq and talk to them about what really goes on, and perhaps meet some of the young men and women who have lost limbs from this," Cindy McCain said on HLN Now TV. "It's Hollywood; I don't know what else to say."
Paltrow, the Academy Award-winning actress and founder of goop.com, made the comments this week at a technology "Code Conference" hosted by Re/code that delved into Internet culture.
"You come across [online comments] about yourself and about your friends, and it's a very dehumanizing thing. It's almost like how, in war, you go through this bloody, dehumanizing thing, and then something is defined out of it," Paltrow said at the conference, according Re/code's write-up of the event. "My hope is, as we get out of it, we'll reach the next level of conscience."
Paltrow went on to say that the Internet offers amazing opportunities to "mature and learn," but also "to project outward our hatred" through anonymous comments.
McCain, who got her share of unpleasant Internet scrutiny during her husband's two presidential campaigns, first shared a link to Paltrow's comments on her Twitter feed via the conservative website Breitbart. After proposing on Twitter that Paltrow meet with her sons, she fired off a second tweet suggesting that the actress "should go out on patrol with some soldiers. Kind of like a Red Carpet in her mind, I guess."
McCain, a longtime human rights activist who founded the American Voluntary Medical Team in the late 1980s -- providing emergency medical care to poor children around the world -- used this week's unexpected blitz of publicity to talk about human trafficking and the plight of the missing girls in Nigeria.
McCain serves as co-chair of Arizona's task force on human trafficking. She has also been involved in the nonprofit organization known as the HALO Trust, which works on land-mine removal in war-torn countries, including Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Mozambique, Angola and Kosovo.
McCain said she responded publicly to Paltrow's comments because the issue is so personal to her, particularly the sacrifice that military families make.
"They serve so selflessly; they serve so that people like Gwyneth Paltrow can say the things that she did freely," McCain said in her interview with HLN Now TV. "I encourage people to remember that our veterans and our active-duty military right now are putting their lives in harm's way -- and they do that freely and they do that voluntarily. I just think she's way out of touch."
McCain's daughter, Meghan, on Thursday sent out a tweet of her own: "Maybe Gwyneth Paltrow should visit Walter Reed [National Military Medical Center] and some of our heroic veterans before comparing her life to theirs. #shesatotalidiot"
Paltrow's publicist did not immediately return a call for comment. The actress was last active on Twitter on Wednesday when she retweeted a tweet from Goop that highlighted another part of her re/code talk.
A new Goop journal entry from Paltrow on Thursday recounted a recent trip to New York and her fascination with "the growing science behind the energy of consciousness and its effects on matter."