Date registered: Apr 2004
Location: The BlueGrass State
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From Politico: McCain Response
February 20, 2008
NYT runs with McCain story; McCain camp hits back hard
The New York Times posted its long-awaited story tonight on John McCain's alleged relationship with a telecom lobbyist. Both McCain and the woman in question denied having a romantic relationship.
The story, word of which first leaked to the Drudge Report in December, relies on anonymous sources tied to McCain who said the lobbyist was warned to keep her distance to the senator in the run-up to his first campaign.
In the piece, McCain is quoted as telling Times editor Bill Keller that he never did anything unethical. Top McCain advisers, including his former Senate chief of staff Mark Salter also say on the record that there was nothing inappropriate done legislatively.
McCain's campaign tonight issued a tough statement blasting the Times for their decision to publish the piece, using similar language from a preemptive strike they released after word first leaked on Drudge.
"It is a shame that the New York Times has lowered its standards to engage in a hit and run smear campaign," said communications director Jill Hazelbaker, in a prepared statement sent about an hour after the Times posted their story online. "John McCain has a 24-year record of serving our country with honor and integrity. He has never violated the public trust, never done favors for special interests or lobbyists, and he will not allow a smear campaign to distract from the issues at stake in this election.
"Americans are sick and tired of this kind of gutter politics, and there is nothing in this story to suggest that John McCain has ever violated the principles that have guided his career."
McCain told reporters Wednesday night when asked about the story: "I haven't seen it yet, so I can't comment."
The four Times reporters primarily involved with the McCain story, along with top editors, were in lock-down Wednesday night..
Washington bureau chief Dean Baquet, when contacted by Politico, wrote in an e-mail: â€śI am going to pass for now. The story speaks for itself.â€ť
Reporter David Kirkpatrick echoed a similar line when reached by phone: â€śI think the story speaks for itself. This one I canâ€™t help you with.â€ť
Executive editor Bill Keller and political editor Dick Stevenson did not immediately respond to requests seeking comment.
Reporters Jim Rutenberg, Stephen Labaton, and Marilyn Thompson - who's leaving the paper - also did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
On Feb. 12, the Washington Post announced that Thompson would be leaving the Times and returning to the Post, her employer for fourteen years.
Rumors had circulated internally that Thompson had been working on the McCain piece and was dissatisfied it had not yet run, according to two Times staffers.
Politico asked Baquet if holding the piece had anything to do with her leaving the paper.
â€śI'm not going to go into stories that may or may not run in the paper,â€ť Baquet said last week, declining to confirm or deny that there was such a story. â€śI had long conversations with Marilyn, and it's about her regarding the Post as home."
Being smart is knowing the difference, in a sticky situation between a well delivered anecdote and a well delivered antidote - bear.