Republican White House hopeful John McCain has lashed out at The New York Times for playing “gutter politics” after it reported on his relationship eight years ago with a female lobbyist.
Both parties denied a romantic entanglement but his aides tried to block her access to McCain, fearing that a close bond with a lobbyist would sully his image as an ethics crusader during his 2000 presidential bid, the paper said in a report on its website late on Wednesday.
The woman, Vicki Iseman, now 40, was a lobbyist whose clients frequently had business before the Senate Commerce Committee, which McCain then led, the paper said, in a lengthy article about ethics over the course of his career.
Her clients donated tens of thousands of dollars to his campaigns. In late 1999 and early 2000, she frequently showed up at his offices and campaign events, attended a small fund-raising dinner with him in Florida and then flew back to Washington with him on a client’s corporate jet, the paper said.
“Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself,” the New York Times said, citing “several people” involved in McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Staff were instructed to keep her away from McCain at public events and to limit her access to his offices, while two former associates held “a series of confrontations” with McCain, it said. “Both said Mr McCain acknowledged behaving inappropriately,” the paper said.
“It is a shame that The New York Times has lowered its standards to engage in a hit and run smear campaign,” McCain spokesperson Jill Hazelbaker said in a statement.
“...He has never violated the public trust, never done favours for special interests or lobbyists, and he will not allow a smear campaign to distract from the issues at stake in this election,” it said.
“Americans are sick and tired at 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,” the statement said.