The Campaign Spot

The ‘McCain-Affair’ Libel Suit Settled

Vicki Iseman, the staffer that the New York Times appeared to imply was having an affair with John McCain, has dropped her lawsuit against the paper in an agreement that includes this correction/clarification:

An article published on February 21, 2008, about Senator John McCain and his record as an ethics reformer who was at times blind to potential conflicts of interest included references to Vicki Iseman, a Washington lobbyist. The article did not state, and The Times did not intend to conclude, that Ms. Iseman had engaged in a romantic affair with Senator McCain or an unethical relationship on behalf of her clients in breach of the public trust.

The Times adds this:

The commentary by Mssrs. Smolla and Allen gives readers a general sense of the case they would have attempted to make if their lawsuit had proceeded. But the first point to make is, the case did not proceed. It was settled without money changing hands, and without The Times backing away from the story. In the joint statement we are releasing today and in a “Note to Readers,” we reiterate what we have said since the story was published: that article did not allege an affair or unethical behavior on Ms. Iseman’s part. We stand by our coverage, and we are proud of it.
The McCain campaign and some of its supporters set out aggressively to portray the article in question as a story about an unsubstantiated affair. But it was not that, either explictly or implicitly.

That last word is horsepuckey, methinks, but I’m not paying for lawyers to hash it out. To refresh, reexamine the article, and note how it began:

Early in Senator John McCain’s first run for the White House eight years ago, waves of anxiety swept through his small circle of advisers.

A female lobbyist had been turning up with [McCain] at fund-raisers, visiting his offices and accompanying him on a client’s corporate jet. Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself — instructing staff members to block the woman’s access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.

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