Today, telecommunications lobbyist Vicki Iseman filed a $27 million defamation lawsuit against The New York Times over an article published last February which questioned connections between Iseman and Senator John McCain when he served as chair of he Senate Commerce Committee in the late 1990s. At the time, TNR special correspondent Gabriel Sherman investigated the story behind the story and examines what, after months of newsroom debates, finallly pushed it to publication:
Beyond its revelations, however, what's most remarkable about the article is that it appeared in the paper at all: The new information it reveals focuses on the private matters of the candidate, and relies entirely on the anecdotal evidence of McCain's former staffers to justify the piece--both personal and anecdotal elements unusual in the Gray Lady. The story is filled with awkward journalistic moves--the piece contains a collection of decade-old stories about McCain and Iseman appearing at functions together and concerns voiced by McCain's aides that the Senator shouldn't be seen in public with Iseman--and departs from the Times' usual authoritative voice. At one point, the piece suggestively states: "In 1999 she began showing up so frequently in his offices and at campaign events that staff members took notice. One recalled asking, 'Why is she always around?'" In the absence of concrete, printable proof that McCain and Iseman were an item, the piece delicately steps around purported romance and instead reports on the debate within the McCain campaign about the alleged affair.
To read the rest of the story behind the NYT bombshell that spurred a lawsuit, click here.