Imagine reading an article that began like this: "The New York Times has been rocked by reports that its coverage of the 2008 election has been sorely compromised by an alleged homosexual relationship between executive editor Bill Keller and liberal columnist Paul Krugman.
"Waves of anxiety have swept through Times staffers who have been concerned about Krugman routinely showing up by Keller's side. Convinced that the relationship had become romantic, some senior staff at the paper have been trying to keep the two apart. These staffers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they warned Keller not to keep his office door closed especially when Krugman was inside.
"Concerns that Krugman's strong support for the Democrats have shaped New York Times coverage of the upcoming election underscore a paradox. The newspaper is widely suspected of tailoring its news coverage to support its political ideology--'all the news that fits'--even though the Times likes to portray itself as objective: 'all the news that's fit to print.'
"Both Keller and Krugman have denied the allegations although such denials are to be expected in such situations. Now some staffers are worried that Keller's coverage of the election may be influenced by his feelings for Krugman. 'We're worried that Krugman is threatening to break it off,' one reporter noted, 'if Keller doesn't give favorable treatment to his candidate and stick it to the Republicans.'"
Incredible? Absurd? Actually, this fictitious article is very, very similar to the actual article that the New York Times ran on John McCain. The key phrases in my made-up account are directly lifted from the Times' actual account. In that story, the newspaper alleged that McCain was having an affair with a 40-year-old lobbyist, naming her as Vicki Iseman. The Times also suggested that McCain gave special treatment to Iseman's clients.
What evidence that the newspaper produce for these explosive allegations? None, and this is after months of investigation by a whole team of reporters. It cited unnamed McCain staffers who said they had become concerned about appearances of impropriety. (None alleged any actual impropriety.) It cited two former McCain staffers who were by their own admission disenchanted with McCain, although even they refused to give their names.