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McCain Camp Takes On the New York Times

By Glenn Kessler
WAYNE, Mich. -- The McCain campaign launched a broadside against the New York Times today, saying the story about the Arizona senator's relationship with a female lobbyist fell short of the newspaper's standards.

VIDEO | GOP Sen. John McCain denies wrongdoing in response to a New York Times article suggesting he had an inappropriate relationship with a female lobbyist. (CBS News)

"This is much more a story about journalism than it is about John McCain," said senior adviser Steve Schmidt, speaking to reporters as McCain flew here from Ohio.

"Obviously, we were very angry," he said. "When we read the story, my initial reaction was that it was something you would see in the National Enquirer, not the New York Times."

Schmidt said the fact that the Times was examining McCain's relationship with Vicki Iseman was an "open secret in Washington for many, many months." He asserted that the newspaper rushed the story into print because it was worried about a pending article in the New Republic about an internal debate about whether to run the story.

Schmidt said the New Republic reporter also called the McCain campaign, saying the Times story had been twice killed and that there were divisions over it between editors and reporters.

Schmidt said that "in the post-Jayson Blair, post-Judith Miller world," the Times went through a "painful period of self-examination" and announced a new policy on the use of anonymous quotes.

Blair was fired after he was found to have made up many facts in his articles, while Miller resigned in the wake of the criminal probe of a White House leak that led to the conviction of White House aide I. Lewis Libby.

Schmidt asserted: "What happened here is a very quick decision was made: Do we publish a story that we know doesn't meet our standards or do we allow a news organization to once again cast a light on goings-on and dysfunction in our newsroom?"

Before Schmidt spoke, Times Executive Editor Bill Keller issued a statement saying the Times publishes stories when they are ready.

While The Washington Post published its own version of the story, focused on concerns McCain aides had about the relationship with Iseman, Schmidt said the Post article was the result of the "feeding frenzy" launched by the Times.

"The New York Times instigated this story," he said. "Clearly, The Washington Post decided to follow on to the New York Times."

Schmidt insisted the campaign was determined to move on from the story, believing it only had legs as a study of journalistic ethics. "It is going to play badly for the New York Times," he said. "John McCain will turn out fine."

By Web Politics Editor  |  February 21, 2008; 1:47 PM ET
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