McCain Story Spurred Turmoil at Times

Editor pushed for better evidence of affair, irking reporters amid buzz
By Jonas Oransky,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 21, 2008 1:40 PM CST
Republican presidential hopeful, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., accompanied by his his wife Cindy, speaks at a news conference in Toledo, Ohio. Thursday, Feb. 21, 2008. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Today’s New York Times bombshell alleging improper ties between John McCain and a lobbyist dropped only after three months of feuding between reporters who thought they’d “nailed” a story and the Gray Lady’s unsatisfied editor, the New Republic reports. One writer quit the paper over the holdup; another staffer begged off covering McCain's campaign because he felt like “a pawn.”

“The paper gets constipated on these things,” one staffer said—but this delay was anything but routine, with the Republican candidate hiring a high-powered criminal attorney to parry the Times. The veteran journalists wrote several drafts—but executive editor Bill Keller insisted the piece be wrapped into a feature about McCain’s ethics shortcomings, despite the Washington editor’s battle to keep it simple.