Times' Keller Defends McCain "Story"

By Big Tent Democrat

Via Greg Sargent, NYTimes Executive Editor defends the McCain story:

On the substance, we think the story speaks for itself. In all the uproar, no one has challenged what we actually reported. On the timing, our policy is, we publish stories when they are ready.

'Ready' means the facts have been nailed down to our satisfaction, the subjects have all been given a full and fair chance to respond, and the reporting has been written up with all the proper context and caveats. This story was no exception. It was a long time in the works. It reached my desk late Tuesday afternoon. After a final edit and a routine check by our lawyers, we published it.

I agree with Greg's take. This statement addresses NONE of the concerns raised. Wholly inadequate.

Update: (TL) The New Republic, which reportedly was the impetus for the Times running the McCain story yesterday, has now published its article about the history of the Times' article and investigation.

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    I agree with Greg's statement that (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by my opinion on Thu Feb 21, 2008 at 04:23:29 PM EST
    "In a way, the piece might actually have been stronger if the allegations of an affair were left out and it had focused only on the allegations of an improper lobbyist-politician relationship, where there seems to be real meat to the story." It sounds like this also may have allowed the story to have been released earlier.

    redefining journalism at the Times... (none / 0) (#1)
    by frankly0 on Thu Feb 21, 2008 at 04:23:20 PM EST
    In all the uproar, no one has challenged what we actually reported.

    Well, given that McCain himself has emphatically denied that he had an affair with the women, I wonder how anyone can conclude that the story hasn't been "challenged" in the most basic sense -- obviously McCain's denial "challenges" the clear implication of the story.

    But of course what's really going on in the story is that it's operating essentially entirely by innuendo and implication. And when a story works almost entirely by innuendo, what's to challenge, in terms of actually declared fact? All you've got are the innuendos.

    But since when are innuendos considered good journalism?

    Really, a proud day for the NY Times.

    Lots of unidentified sources in (none / 0) (#2)
    by oculus on Thu Feb 21, 2008 at 04:23:23 PM EST
    the TNR piece.  

    Unfortunate (none / 0) (#4)
    by 1jane on Thu Feb 21, 2008 at 04:24:20 PM EST
    The NYT's article also has had the unintended consequence of reminding some voter's of former President Clinton's Monicagate. It will be a while before more facts surface, if they do, to have caused the NYT's to publish their story. The New York Times is becoming the new Natioal Inquirer.  

    The more interesting (none / 0) (#5)
    by Alien Abductee on Thu Feb 21, 2008 at 05:10:32 PM EST
    story is shaping up to be the NYT's conflict of interest. They're supposed to be pursuing the facts and reporting them in the public interest. If they had this story under continuing consideration, what role did their decision to publish or not publish it play in relation to their endorsement of McCain? And then to publish it only when forced to by TNR? And only in a most dismissable form, as innuendo journalism? This really stinks. Not just for McCain (the allegations in the more low-key WaPo version seem troublesome enough for him) but for the NYT itself.

    this reminds me of (none / 0) (#6)
    by Kathy on Thu Feb 21, 2008 at 05:38:32 PM EST
    the Dan Rather/Texas National Guard story with Bush, where the reportage became the focus rather than the facts.  In the McCain instance, the letter-writing on behalf of lobbyists should be investigated, but the unprovable sex scandal is going to overshadow everything.

    Not that I am speaking to validity of the McCain claim in any way.  I just think the sexual aspect is a non-issue, just as I thought Bill Clinton's sex life was a non-issue.

    (Also, in the case of McCain, I feel very, very sorry for his wife and children, because this is a deeply personal thing and now it's out in the public domain, where it certainly does not belong.)

    Oh, please, not around here, too.... (none / 0) (#7)
    by Camorrista on Thu Feb 21, 2008 at 07:58:44 PM EST
    Here we go again: innuendo, weak sources, bizarre timing, feeble rebuttals, a disgrace to journalism, blah, blah, blah, blah.  Bad Times, bad Times; Times drop evil-smelling mess on floor.   Bad, bad bad.

    But why is it bad?  Is it actually any different from what the Times (or any other big daily) does on a regular basis?  Innuendo, weak sources, bizarre timing is what political journalism is all about--remember the takeout on the Clinton's bedroom practices?  On Obama's drug history?  On Kitty Dukakis' depression?  On Judy Dean's sleeping habits?  Or, going further back, on Betty Ford's tippling (or Mamie Eisenhower's).  All those pieces appeared in the Times.  Some of them even stirred folks to say, bad, bad.  But not like this.  No, this is bad (I'm chagrined to say) because the subject is the sainted (if all-too-human, sniffle, sniffle) John MCain.

    If I might review...

    The Times (and then the Washington Post) reported that the staff of a presidential candidate, a U.S. senator, warned a female lobbyist to stop coming around because it might tarnish the senator's reputation for probity, both political and personal.

    The Times did not say there was an affair--it quoted denials by both parties; it did not say there were any legislative quid-pro-quos.  It did say the staff was nervous enough about the looks of things to chase the lobbyist away.

    Legitimate?  Worth Page One?  In the light of John McCain's history as a corporate whore (i.e., Keating, telcom donors) and as a callous philanderer--recall, he began cheating on his first wife while she was hospitalized for an incapacitating auto accident--you bet it's legitimate.  You bet in the middle of a presidential campaign it's worth Page One.  The Times is the New York Times, not the Vatican City Times, or the Qom Times.  Whatever it's pretensions, it doesn't do purity.

    My guess is there would barely be a complaining peep out of anybody on TV or at TPM (and most other other "liberal" blogs) if this story were about Hillary Clinton and a male lobbyist.  

    On the contrary, Chris Matthews and his gang of eunuchs would outdo one another in gags about what it's like for a 60-year-old woman to have sex with a 40-year-old stud muffin.  Matthews undoubtedly would joke about her "fat ankles" undulating in the air.  There would be no limits on the calumny, none, and Josh Marshall would sigh manfully, and say, well, what can you expect...

    The press (and its so-called scrutinizers) have been fluffing McCain for years.  Lizza's piece in the The New Yorker (and Kristof's column a few days ago) are the latest examples: Lizza demonstrates that McCain is a liar, a panderer, a lockstep right-winger, an adulterer, and a petty, dangerous hothead.  And none of it matters. Because the boys on the bus love John McCain, love him, love him, love him.

    Unsurprisingly, the Right has made this about the Times (as Kathy notes, just as the Right made the CBS National Guard story about Dan Rather).  In unison, the thugs on the Right sing...'nothing here, folks, move along,'...or 'a smear job by the Liberal Media,' or...'the Times hates the military,' or 'Keller should be hanged,' or....quote the version of your choice.

    Please don't join their choir.  The Times is not the story.  John McCain, our very own Tartuffe, is.  


    interesting, (none / 0) (#9)
    by cpinva on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 01:37:58 AM EST
    you cite, accurately, allegations previously proved with real, confirmed facts. none of which exists in the story you attempt (poorly) to defend.

    i'm no mccain groupie, far from it, i think his whole "straight shooter", "maverick" schtick is just that, a schtick. the facts of his political career certainly bely it.

    that said, the nyt's story is just that, a story without substance, much like their "whitewater" story was; many unsupported allegations, many nameless quotes, etc. it's what's commonly known in english lit as the "fiction" genre.

    anyone can write a story, when confirmed facts aren't essential, as they clearly aren't at the nyt's. had they just said it was fiction, masquerading as "news", i'd have no problem.

    that you don't says more about your standards, or lack thereof, then the nyt's.


    Thank you for your unpleasantness. (none / 0) (#10)
    by Camorrista on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 09:34:35 AM EST
    The substance of the story, in the lead, was that John McCain's staffers, fearful that his continued meetings with a female lobbyist might hurt his reputation, forced her to go away.

    That fact is sourced more than once.  

    Only if you (ignorantly) believe that the substance of the story is that they had an affair, or McCain did the lobbyist any legislative favors, is it just to condemn the story as you do.  As I mentioned, the Times let both parties deny any affair, and said there was no legislative quid pro quo.  The only unsupported allegations are those in your active mind.

    As for this..."that you don't says more about your standards, or lack thereof, then the nyt's."...

    That you would attack the character of somebody who (poorly, or not) defended a news story says more about your intellectual dexterity (limited), self-righteousness (unlimited) and manners (lousy).


    heh (none / 0) (#8)
    by jimakaPPJ on Thu Feb 21, 2008 at 10:45:28 PM EST
    The letters have been released.

    What they do is state that McCain is specifying a decision, but noting that a decision be made.

    That is hardly improper.