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McCain, Hayworth Bicker Over Meaning of 'Oscar' Attack Ad

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A campaign attack ad that depicts Sen. John McCain as an "Avatar" has the Arizona Republican crying foul over what he sees as a slap to Native Americans.

This much we know for sure: J.D. Hayworth thinks John McCain is not really, truly a conservative. He makes that clear in an online campaign ad that depicts the Arizona senator as "Nominee for Best Conservative Actor."

The ad (click here to view it), clearly an Academy Awards sendoff, portrays McCain bursting out of a gold Hollywood star, with a statuette and an envelope ...

And blue warpaint splashed across his face.

That's the part that has riled McCain, who is accusing his Republican primary opponent of insulting Native Americans.

But it's also the part that may have Hayworth wondering what planet McCain is on -- since the ad appears to be a sendoff of the blockbuster film Avatar, in which case the blue warpaint is a reference to the fictional, blue-skinned Na'vi people on the distant world of Pandora.

Regardless, McCain is demanding that Hayworth apologize.

"Ex-Congressman J.D. Hayworth should immediately apologize and take down his latest online ad, which is an outrageous offense to John McCain's lifetime of honorable service to our state and nation, and insulting to Native Americans here in Arizona and across America," McCain campaign manager Shiree Verdone said Thursday in a written statement.

"Mr. Hayworth is welcome to debate the challenges facing our state and nation, but this kind of character assassination has no place in the Republican Party, and Mr. Hayworth should be ashamed of his campaign for running it," she wrote.

The Hayworth campaign refused to apologize; it said the ad will remain up and, in fact, it expects that the controversy will increase its visibility.

"We would encourage him to get a sense of humor," Hayworth campaign spokesman Jason Rose told FoxNews.com. "And the reality is John McCain has been attacking J.D. Hayworth viciously for three straight months and if he can't take a joke, or take the heat, it might be time for him to get out of the Senate."

Rose said he thought the ad was nicely timed with the Academy Awards to convey a core message of Hayworth's campaign.

"And that is every six years McCain promises to be a conservative, and then after he's elected he goes back to poking Republicans in the eye," he said, noting McCain's moderate positions on immigration reform and climate change.

Rose said he didn't understand the link the McCain campaign made between the ad and Native Americans.

"This shows you how insulated he is," he said, suggesting that McCain has not seen the record-grossing film.

The McCain campaign did not return a message seeking comment.

A spokesman for a Native American tribe said McCain's criticism seemed to miss the mark.

"This whole thing is a joke," said Tony Phillippe, the public administrator for the Kaibab-Pauite Tribe, who burst into laughter when told about the ad.

"People do anything to get their points across. It's funny," he said, adding that he's not offended. "I think the whole concept is ludicrous."

Phillippe noted that he's white with no Native American blood.

But the president of the Navajo Nation, part of the largest tribe in the U.S., said despite his Master's degree, he can't figure out what Hayworth is trying to say, according to a Nation spokesman who spoke with FoxNews.com after the ad was e-mailed to the tribe.

"Several staff assistants in the president's office (who are Navajo) took a look and agreed that, at best, whatever message is trying to be conveyed is muddled and, at worst, some native people will find it offensive," spokesman George Hardeen said in an e-mail message.

"No other ethnic group is so frequently publically maligned in this very fashion, and here we have a candidate for U.S. Senate succumbing to the temptation of using images of race to bait an opponent," he said.

Hardeen noted that McCain has been an active supporter of Native American issues and has typically been endorsed by all Arizona tribes when seeking re-election.

"I'm certain he'll get Navajo support again in November," he said, adding that the ad "may very well change some minds against Mr. Hayworth."