Half-sister of Cindy McCain says she feels excluded, angry

August 19, 2008

NEW ORLEANS – A half-sister of Cindy McCain has emerged to speak in an interview with National Public cindy1.jpgRadio, complaining that she feels hurt when she hears the wife of Republican Sen. John McCain describe herself as an only child.

Cindy McCain’s father was the late Jim Hensley, founder of the Hensley & Co. beer distributorship, from his second marriage, while her half-sister Kathleen Portalski was Hensley’s daughter from his first marriage, NPR said in the exclusive report that aired on Monday.

Portalski, 65, is retired and lives in Phoenix.

Her son Nicholas Portalski contacted NPR after hearing the radio station’s profile of Cindy McCain last week  that described her as an only child.

Cindy McCain often calls herself an only child and has been described as such in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Newsweek and ABC, NPR said.

“I’m upset,” Kathleen Portalski said in the interview with NPR correspondent Ted Robbins. “I’m angry. It makes me feel like a nonperson, kind of.”

Portalski said she saw her father a few times a year, such as Christmas and birthdays, and that he gave her money for school clothes. He also provided money for college tuition to his grandchildren and left Portalski  $10,000 in his will when he died in 2000, NPR said.

The Portalskis say they were disappointed when Cindy McCain inherited the bulk of her father’s fortune. She now serves as chairman of  Hensley & Company, one of the largest Anheuser-Busch distributors in the nation.

Portalski’s son said the family came forward because “we’ve never been recognized, and then Cindy has to put such a fine point on it by saying something that’s not true.”

“It’s just very, very hurtful,” he said.

Hensley was still married to his first wife when he met Marguerite Smith, who would become his second wife and Cindy McCain’s mother, NPR said.

Hensley divorced his first wife and married Smith in 1945, NPR said. Cindy McCain was born in 1954.

Kathleen Portalski told NPR she would like an acknowledgment and an apology.

NPR asked the McCain campaign and Cindy McCain to comment but said neither responded to its requests.

The Portalskis also told NPR they are Democrats.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: Reuters/Chris Keane (Cindy McCain)


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Duh they’re democrats. If she is truly cindy’s step-sister and this is all she can come up with on the woman, I wouldn’t say she knows her all that well. Seems to me she is reaching a bit, but the absolutely non-threatening subject matter of the revelation seems pathetic. You mom having sex with another girl’s father doesn’t make you sisters. This is a bit sad either way, the lady obviously is bitter and I would think she should have received more inheritance from a rather wealthy man, though perhaps her lack of ambition in life or another obscure mishap in her and her father’s relationship did not facilitate her father leaving her any money. If Cindy’s father was cold to his first daughter, I doubt Cindy had any reason or opportunity to call this lady her sister. It sounds as though Cindy did not grow up with this girl and I think growing up without any siblings kinda constitutes calling yourself an oly child. She is in fact, the only child of her mother and father. I think it would be a stretch for her to think of this lady as a sister. I don’t think of my mother’s other child as a sister. We see each other at some holidays, but me and my brother are my parent’s only two children.

Posted by karlthomas | Report as abusive

I have always heard Cindy referred to as an only child. Can’t she count. Maybe like her husband she graduated at the bottom of the class.

Posted by Lilly | Report as abusive

“You mom having sex with another girl’s father doesn’t make you sisters.” Biologically, it does.

It is ironic. I always had a problem with John McCain dumping his first wife and kinds for Cindy and wondered how her parents could let their daughter be with a man like that. Now we know why: Cindy’s father left his first wife and kids for Cindy’s mom. Like mother like daughter, like father. . .now husband! sick!!

Posted by selwyse | Report as abusive

Oh MY God! I can’t believe that!! Like mother, like daughter- absolutely! Maybe Meghan McCain will break the streak and will have an opportunity to see what’s it like to be the first wife- maybe her future children will be the ones left behind some day. Some karma is definitely in order for this family!

Posted by Angela | Report as abusive

Okay, so her father had a previous marriage. He married Cindy’s mom 9 years BEFORE Cindy was born and this woman wants to be considered a sister? Did she make any attempts to interact with Cindy as a sister? Doesn’t sound like it.

So, yeah, she’s her half sister, but Cindy still grew up as an only child. Some lady who’s at least ten years older and was never a part of her life isn’t someone she’d be likely to mention. It sounds like this woman is just trying to get her 15 minutes of fame.

Posted by Kim | Report as abusive

Hey karlthomas …What do you know of “her lack of ambition in life”? It is alot easier to be chair of a big company when Daddy gives it to you than to create it yourself. What has she done with her life to help others? So is you position based on fact or your sensitivity to your mother having feelings for someone who, in your opinion only, isn’t your sister?

Posted by pmacdee | Report as abusive

Kim – are you as narrow minded, ignorant and selfish in person as you are in print? Put yourself in this lady’s place. Imagine you share a father with someone, and that other person does not acknowledge you whatsoever, choosing rather to mislead the public by calling herself an only child.

Chemically, biologically, morally, Cindy McCain is clearly not an only child. Get over your partisan self.

Posted by ToKnow | Report as abusive

Maybe part of Kathleen’s pain stems from being forgotten by her father and having a half sister who even if they weren’t close doesn’t acknowledge her existance. Death of a parent can bring out the competitive nature of siblings and their relationships. I believe the one who looks bad in my eyes is Cindy. She doesn’t have to be close to have empathy for that fact that her father’s other daughter was left out. Why not share in the abundance that was left her? Why is she considered such a caring sort if she can’t start at home with an estranged sister.

The whole sorid history of the Hensley’s and the McCain’s and lack of empathy for a forgotten daughter shows me that Cindy is pretty cold hearted and she’s standing beside this candidate?

Posted by Kathy | Report as abusive

Cindy McCain has a half sister with BOTH her MOTHER and her FATHER. Clearly she is not an ONLY child. She could have stated “I was raised as an only child” which is clearly different from stating “I am an ONLY child”. Regardless of how she feels about this woman she has no right to take away her birth right. After all, Ms. Portalski is 11 years older than Cindy which means Jim Hensley was her father FIRST.

Posted by OhioDem4Life | Report as abusive

I understand that Cindy McCain’s claim that she is an only child had been reversed by some reporters who said that she was the only child of Jim Hensley. It’s a subtle difference, but one is arguably true while the other is patently false. Given that Hensley was estranged from his ex-wife and oldest daughter, I can understand and sympathize with Ms. McCain’s view that she was an only child. However, I can also understand and sympatize with Ms. Portalski’s offense at hearing that Jim Hensley only had one child.

It’s bad enough that Hensley all but wrote his firstborn out of his will, and that she and her family were cut off from what financial support they had been receiving upon his death. But to grow up fatherless while knowing that your father’s other daughter lives in the lap of luxury with all his love and attention must leave deep emotional scars.

Posted by bluemoonalto | Report as abusive

Clearly Cindy and Kathleen have a whole lot more in common than James Hensley’s bloodline. What better way to work out family disputes than through an IM? http://www.236.com/news/2008/08/21/if_th ey_imd_cindy_hensley_mcca_8350.php

Posted by eliana | Report as abusive

Recently a friend of mine parent died and was estranged from some of the children by previous marriages. One son received all of the inheritance, but he chose to share it equally with the other siblings that was left out. This takes guts, class and morals.

Posted by lee smith | Report as abusive