2008 Republican National Convention: Day 2
Alex Wong  /  Getty Images
Actor and former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson speaks with a picture of the injured John McCain in the background at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota on September 2.
updated 10/22/2008 4:02:51 PM ET 2008-10-22T20:02:51

A French national archive has posted online extended footage of Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain being interviewed as a bedridden prisoner during the Vietnam War.

French reporter Francois Chalais conducted the interview. His widow says the online release this week of 4 minutes, 33 seconds of footage is the fullest distribution of the interview since it first aired four decades ago.

The video shows McCain shirtless and unshaven, smoking a cigarette. Answering questions from Chalais, he spoke about being shot down over Hanoi on Oct. 25, 1967, and parachuting into a lake.

At times, when speaking of his family, McCain's lower lip trembles and his voice breaks.

"I was on a flight over the city (Hanoi) ... and I was bombing and I was hit by a missile or anti-aircraft fire, I'm not sure which," he said, adding that his plane "went straight down."

After landing in the lake, McCain said he "was picked up and taken to the hospital, where I almost died."

In the interview, McCain said he was treated well by his Vietnamese captors. Asked about the food, he told his French interviewer, "It's not like Paris ... (but) I eat it."

The exact date of the interview is not clear, but it appeared to be taken in late 1967.

The French national audiovisual archive INA is posting the interview on its Web site, http://www.ina.fr, for one week. It was first broadcast on French television program Panorama in January 1968.

Mei Chen Chalais, the reporter's 56-year-old widow who holds the legal rights to the footage, told The Associated Press that some excerpts of the black-and-white footage are widely available — mostly unauthorized — in cyberspace, and have been used by television networks in France and the United States.

Her lawyers are seeking payment from at least seven broadcasters in France and the United States that used the footage without authorization, said one of her attorneys, Jacques-Georges Bitoun on Wednesday.

Even McCain's campaign Web site features a few seconds of the footage, which Chalais said was done without her approval. Chalais' lawyers have sent a letter on the rights issue to McCain's campaign team.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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