The Corner

It’s Not About Sex

On the paper’s website, New York Times executive editor Bill Keller is responding to reader comments on the John McCain story.  A lot of them were negative:

Personally, I was surprised by the volume of the reaction (including more than 2,400 reader comments posted on our Web site). I was surprised by how lopsided the opinion was against our decision, with readers who described themselves as independents and Democrats joining Republicans in defending Mr. McCain from what they saw as a cheap shot.

And, frankly, I was a little surprised by how few readers saw what was, to us, the larger point of the story. Perhaps here, at the outset of this conversation, is a good point to state as clearly as possible our purpose in publishing.

And what was the larger point of the story?  Some readers thought it was to use the implication of a sexual affair to turn a page-27 story of alleged favor-doing into a page-one scandal.  But Keller says that wasn’t the idea:

The point of this “Long Run” installment was that, according to people who know him well, this man who prizes his honor above all things and who appreciates the importance of appearances also has a history of being sometimes careless about the appearance of impropriety, about his reputation. The story cites several examples, and quotes friends and admirers talking of this apparent contradiction in his character. That is why some members of his staff were so alarmed by the appearance of his relationship with Ms. Iseman. And that, it seemed (and still seems) to us, was something our readers would want to know about a man who aspires to be president.

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