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2/21/2008
THE TIMES CIRCLES THE WAGONS WHILE THEIR STORY UNRAVELS
CATEGORY: Ethics, Media

Executive Editor Bill Keller defending the Times McCain smear:

“On the substance, we think the story speaks for itself. In all the uproar, no one has challenged what we actually reported. On the timing, our policy is, we publish stories when they are ready.

” ‘Ready’ means the facts have been nailed down to our satisfaction, the subjects have all been given a full and fair chance to respond, and the reporting has been written up with all the proper context and caveats. This story was no exception. It was a long time in the works. It reached my desk late Tuesday afternoon. After a final edit and a routine check by our lawyers, we published it.”

The reason no one is challenging what you reported, Bill, is because it is impossible to challenge innuendo and snide implications. If you had come right out and said “McCain is screwing this broad” you would have been branded liars. Instead, you’ve earned the sobriquet “smear merchant” which has a long and illustrious history in American journalism.

As for other aspects of the story, your boast that no one has “challenged” the facts is simply a lie. Former McCain aide John Weaver denies he played the role of corroborating witness to the “intervention” with Ms. Iseman that you story claims:

The New York Times asked for a formal interview and I said no and asked for written questions. The Times knew of my meeting with Ms. Iseman, from sources they didn’t identify to me, and asked me about that meeting. I did not inform Senator McCain that I asked for a meeting with Ms. Iseman. [ed. note: McCain denied any knowledge of this meeting in his morning presser.]

Her comments, which had gotten back to some of us, that she had strong ties to the Commerce Committee and his staff were wrong and harmful and I so informed her and asked her to stop with these comments and to not be involved in the campaign. Nothing more and nothing less.

I responded to the Times on the record about a meeting they already knew about. The campaign received a copy of my response to the Times the same day, which was in late December.

Ed Morrssey places this denial in context:

Iseman had bragged about her connections to the committee in order to expand her client list. Weaver heard about it and told her to knock it off, or she’d get frozen out. Lobbyists collect clients by making themselves appear influential, and apparently Iseman got a little too hyperbolic about her connections.

That’s the extent of the supposed “intervention” — and the Times knew it.

Morrissey’s post also has an interesting twist via Martin’s Politico blog where a former press secretary for McCain thinks it likely the leaks came from lobbyists and not campaign staffers. If true, this would be a far more compelling story of how the New York Times got taken by a couple of shills jealous of Iseman’s access?

In truth, this seems to be where all the various threads come together; Iseman’s privileged position as a friend/close associate/advisor to McCain. It is the cause of the rumored infidelity, the influence peddling, and the inappropriate interventions by McCain on her behalf.

As for the infidelity, the Times story itself never comes out and says it existed because they had no witnesses or documentary proof. To imply that McCain was fooling around anyway was the height of irresponsibility and is the definition of a smear. In addition, other staffers in the know vehemently deny there was anything romantic in the McCain-Iseman relationship.

As for the rest, the rebuttal to influence peddling charges supplied by McCain’s lawyer Bob Bennett is pretty thorough. It turns out McCain did not intervene directly on behalf of Paxson Communications in order to get a favorable ruling from the FCC. What he did was write a letter asking that the FCC get off its butt and rule on the matter. I wrote this at AT this morning:

It should be pointed out that there are 100 senators currently serving and if there is one of those senators who hasn’t written a letter to get some dead weight bureaucrat off his duff and do his job in approving or disapproving a company’s request so that the business doesn’t go bankrupt waiting for the agency to do its job I would be shocked.

Arizona Senator McCain intervened on behalf of a Florida company at the behest of a lobbyist (Iseman) who he happened to be friends with. A credible case can be made that in his capacity as Chairman of the Commerce Committee, McCain was legitimately carrying out his responsibilities. An equally good case can be made that McCain was stretching it. Is this news? McCain himself has elevated his own standard of behavior above this sort of thing so in that sense it is a minor point against him.

Front page news in the New York Times? Doubt it.

The same goes for the rest of the “transgressions” that in reading them seem picky and petty. Again, in the context that McCain holds himself to a higher standard than other politicians, it is a legitimate news item. But plane rides? Letters to bureaucrats? Are these the kinds of “hypocrisies” that rise to the level of front page news in the “newspaper of record?”

No. What makes this front page news and caused the Times to send 4 reporters out trying to dig up dirt on McCain was the sex angle and only the sex angle. The Times thought it had a juicy sex story about a Republican “Family Values” politician and devoted god knows how many man hours to trying to ferret it out. They failed abysmally and know it. Instead of coming forward to defend themselves against allegations of political character assassination, they have hunkered down and decided to try and ride out the storm by staying mum.

Maybe TNR’s Franklin Foer should give Bill Keller a call and tell him how successful that strategy was.

By: Rick Moran at 8:15 pm
4 Responses to “THE TIMES CIRCLES THE WAGONS WHILE THEIR STORY UNRAVELS”
  1. 1
    MIKE FARRELL Said:
    8:23 pm 

    As ridiculous as itseems the Texas Dem primary is an open one so Republicans can roll up and vote.Some may think it a good strategic choice to vote for Obama thinking that if he becomes the candidate,and the gloss wears off,he will be easy for McCain to beat in November.However,whilst good politics, it is in the end, unpatriotic because if Obama wins in November then the country would be stuck with him and his lack of foreign policy (or frankly any policy) experience.That is more important than his lack of any proven economic experience.If Texas rRpublicans do vote they should think of their country first and vote for Clinton who,if she does win in November would be a more centrist,experienced President.

  2. 2
    Juan Paxety Said:
    9:28 am 

    I spent 15-years in the news business, most of it in TV. Even in market 136, I would not have let such a half-baked story on the air.

  3. 3
    Steve Said:
    5:10 pm 

    Is anyone, anywhere, still surprised by the lack of ethics at the NYT? It was the home of Jason Blair, who trashed the Iraq war with invented stories, and was then promted by NYT management. Then it all came out, and they reluctantly fired him. After all, he’d been such a cash cow.

    The NYT is an old, desperate, failing institution, stock falling like a rock over the last 5 years. Sensationalism is their last hope, throwing anything that they can at Conservatives in the sad hope that liberals will buy a paper to read about it. I can’t figure how any rats are left on that ship.

  4. 4
    neeraj Said:
    8:39 am 

    Being a journalist and a t.v reporter i strictly appose half baked story whether it is political,social or economical news.dare to speak and show the darker side of the society.

    ——————————

    neeraj

    Wide Circles

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