The NYT's Crusade Against McCain

Amanda Carpenter

5/5/2008 1:59:38 PM - Amanda Carpenter

The New York Times has accused GOP presidential candidate John McCain of having an affair, unethically helping an Arizona developer, distorting his rival’s healthcare plans and hiding financial and medical information from the public, and the McCain campaign has had enough.

After the Times published yet another critical editorial of McCain on Sunday, the campaign is hitting back. Mark Salter, who authored five books with McCain and serves as a strategist to his presidential campaign, said the editorial was “absurd” and “should the New York Times ever show it possesses half of John McCain's sense of civic responsibility, it might begin to repair its deservedly tarnished reputation.”

The Times received a torrent of negative news coverage after alleging McCain had an illicit, romantic relationship with lobbyist Vicki Iseman in a news story that relied heavily on unnamed sources last February. But subsequent anti-McCain articles, some written by the same reporters who penned the McCain-Iseman piece, haven’t been as widely panned.

On April 22, David D. Kirkpatrick and Jim Rutenberg reported McCain did favors for an Arizona-based wealthy real estate developer, Donald Diamond, who contributed heavily to his campaign. Kirkpatrick and Rutenberg were also lead reporters on the McCain-Iseman story.

Kirkpatrick and Rutenberg took issue with McCain’s willingness to write letters to the Department of Interior to request the government purchase land from Diamond in order to expand the Sanguaro National Monument and to speed the land sale of a closed Army base Diamond wished to purchase.

McCain’s press secretary Jill Hazelbaker said the senator “had done nothing for Mr. Diamond that he would not do for any other citizen,” but the reporters sensed scandal. “For Mr. McCain, the Arizona Republican who has staked two presidential campaigns on pledges to avoid even the appearance of dispensing an official favor for a donor, Mr. Diamond is the kind of friend who can pose a test,” the reporters wrote. Their story did not mention the various environmental groups who endorsed the monument expansion and buried details about how two other members of the Arizona congressional delegation supported the Army base sale deep in the story.

Three days later the Times followed up on the story with an editorial that said “there is nothing illegal” about McCain’s relationship with Diamond, but rather, is “evidence that Mr. McCain is as mortal — or compromising — as the next politician.”

On May 3, Times reporters Michael Cooper and Julie Bosman accused McCain of distorting his Democratic presidential rivals’ universal healthcare plans. They wrote, “Senator John McCain has been repeatedly suggesting that his Democratic rivals are proposing a single-payer, or even a nationalized health care system along the lines of those in countries like Canada and Britain. The suggestion is incorrect. While both Senator Barack Obama of Illinois and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York are calling for universal health care and an expanded role for government, they stop well short of calling for a single-payer plan.”

Oddly enough, both Clinton and Obama have said they support single-payer. And at a campaign event in Connecticut, Clinton was asked by a Yale medical student if she would sign a single-payer healthcare bill. According to the student, Clinton said “yes” and shook the student’s hand. Obama explicitly said in a 2003 speech before the AFL-CIO, “I happen to be a proponent of a single payer health care program.”

On May 4, a Times editorial introduced new disclosure standards for McCain, based on his age. It said McCain has a “larger duty than usual to provide detailed, timely disclosure about his health” because he “is 71 years old, a survivor of an aggressive form of skin cancer. If elected, he would be the oldest man to become president.” The piece also called for his millionaire wife to publicly release her separate tax forms although most of her tax information is already available on Mr. McCain’s Senate financial disclosure forms, submitted on an annual basis. These forms are available on opensecrets.com and show the sources of Mrs. McCain’s income, although it does not show the exact amount earned from those sources.

In his Monday statement strategist Salter said McCain staffers told the Times McCain’s health records would be released on May 23, but the paper chose to ignore that information.

“On Sunday the New York Times ran an absurd editorial demanding that the campaign release health records that the campaign had already publicly stated will be released in three weeks,” Salter said. “Yes, you read that right: The Times was told that the records will be released on May 23rd, and ran the attack anyway. This comes after months of Times ‘news’ stories attacking John McCain on all fronts, some earning the rebuke of the Times's own editors. At this point, the Times's effort really has become so transparent and juvenile that voters are sure to see right through it.”