In this New York Observer story, Bill Keller talks about what he would have done differently regarding the New York Times’s John McCain/lobbyist story from last year:
“In one case, the famous McCain and the lobbyist story, if I had to do it over again, the one thing I would do differently: I think I would have planned for the blowback better,” he told the staff, according to a recording of the proceedings obtained by The Observer. “It really took a day and a half to decide that we just weren’t going to let the story speak for itself—we were going to speak for ourselves. And by then, they had defined what the story was and, with Fox News as their megaphone, the world now believes it was a story about McCain sleeping with a lobbyist, which it was not. That one I’d wish we did differently.”
What Fox News megaphone? The night the story broke, I only watched MSNBC and CNN coverage. As much as Keith Olbmerann and then 10 p.m. host Dan Abrams tried to make the story about sex, not a single one of the pundits getting interviewed by Olbermann and Abrams thought it was relevant. When Keller says the story wasn’t “about McCain sleeping with a lobbyist,” then why did McCain’s biggest critics at MSNBC jump all over it as a sex story?
And why did the notoriously non-Fox-Newsish Seattle Press-Intelligencer refuse to to run the Iseman story? Here’s what their editors said at the time:
I chose not to run the New York Times story on John McCain in Thursday’s P-I, even though it was available to us on the New York Times News Service. I thought I’d take a shot at explaining why.
To me, the story had serious flaws. It did not convincingly make the case that McCain either had an affair with a lobbyist, or was improperly influenced by her. It used a raft of unnamed sources to assert that members of McCain’s campaign staff — not this campaign but his campaign eight years ago — were concerned about the amount of time McCain was spending with the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman. They were worried about the appearance of a close bond between the two of them.
Blaming Fox News is always the easier way to go.