John McCain’s camp came out swinging at the New York Times last night, calling a “hit and run smear campaign” a report alleging that the senator had been involved in an improper and possibly romantic relationship with lobbyist Vicki Iseman eight years ago. “The New York Times is playing the National Enquirer,” one adviser told ABC News, calling the story “gossip.”
The Times story said McCain aides, alarmed by the appearance of impropriety, tried to limit Iseman's access to the senator, and one confronted her, urging her to stay away from him. Much is being made of the timing of the Times’ publication of the story, which McCain aides say was prepared in December but held. They say the Times published it last night because the New Republic was working on its own story about the Times’ reticence. “The New Republic stampeded them into running this story, which is shoddy journalism, which is a smear of John McCain,” said the adviser.