Vicki Iseman sues over McCain slur

LAST UPDATED AT 11:14 ON Wed 31 Dec 2008

One of the more confusing moments thrown up during this year's US election campaign was a story run by the New York Times that appeared to suggest that John McCain had become a little too close to a female lobbyist called Vicki Iseman (pictured), a woman who bears a striking resemblance to the senator's wife Cindy.

At the time, Iseman, 41, perhaps not wanting to distract attention from McCain's attempts to become the Republican candidate – the story appeared in February before he had been officially selected - kept quiet. However, she has now decided to act, bringing a $27m defamation suit against the New York Times, claiming that the story left the public with the impression that her business relations with McCain were somehow improper and that they were possibly having a romantic affair.

The original story did not say this, but examined Iseman's relationship with the senator in the late 1990s, when McCain was the chairman of the Senate's Commerce Committee. However, it also pointed out that Iseman, a lobbyist for the telecommunications industry, was showing up at campaign events and claimed that one of McCain's aides, John Weaver, eventually had to warn her to stay away and stop telling everyone how close she and the senator were.

Iseman's defamatory complaint has two main thrusts - that the Times story communicated that she had exploited a relationship with McCain "to obtain favorable legislative outcomes for her clients" and that the paper's portrayal of the nature of her relationship with McCain (as "illicit and inappropriate") was incorrect and damaging.

Although the article was criticised by the newspaper's ombudsman, Clark Hoyt, who said "If you [the Times] cannot provide readers with some independent evidence, I think it is wrong to report the suppositions or concerns of anonymous aides about whether the boss is getting into the wrong bed", it appears the Times will fight Iseman's action.

Said a spokesman: "We continue to believe it to be true and accurate, and that we will prevail. It was an important piece that raised questions about a presidential contender and the perception he had been engaged in conflicts of interest."

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