February 20th, 2008
11:02 PM ET

Backstory on Sen. McCain and The New York Times

I’ve talked to several of Senator McCain’s senior advisors on his campaign tonight and they're angrily denying that the senator had any inappropriate relationship with the lobbyist in that story and they are really criticizing The New York Times for suggesting that somehow senator McCain compromised his integrity in his dealings with the Washington lobbyist described in the story.
The following is a statement his campaign put out:


"It is a shame that the New York Times has lowered its standards to engage in a hit and run smear campaign. 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’s advisers say tonight, that The New York Times started working on this story several months ago, back in the fall. According to Charlie Black, one of the advisers that I spoke to tonight, they say they spent countless hours meeting with The New York Times, giving the paper documentation and statements that they insist disputes a good part of what's in this story. We're told that the McCain campaign plans to release some of that documentation tonight, including, for example, a letter that the Times say McCain wrote to the FCC urging them to make rulings to help this lobbyist in question. The McCain campaign insists that the full letter will show that they did no such thing.

As for that suggestion back 2000, when McCain first ran for president, that advisors had been worried about this relationship and confronted both McCain and this female lobbyist, we're still doing our own reporting on that including trying to find one of the aides quoted on the record there. Senator McCain himself was asked about this, leaving a fundraiser here in Ohio, and he simply said, "I haven't seen it yet, so I can't comment."

McCain’s advisers tell me is they got a call from a reporter who works for the New Republic Magazine doing a story last week about internal turmoil inside The New York Times newsroom. According to the McCain campaign, they were told by this New Republic reporter that there was squabbling inside The New York Times about whether or not to go with this story. In fact Black even said he was told that The New York Times made an editorial decision twice not to run the story and that they "choked" and decided not to run the story.

A CNN producer spoke with the editor of the New Republic article in question and the editor did say they were working on the story that they were working on it for the past week and a half or so. According to the editor The New York Times was extremely nervous about their story.

Why they decided to run it and put it up at 7:00 eastern tonight is definitely curious.

That's a big part of the puzzle of all this that we're definitely going to keep working on here.

-Dana Bash, 360° Correspondent

Filed under: John McCain • Raw Politics
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