The Washington Times - February 19, 2009, 07:02PM

So much for Vicki Iseman’s giant defamation suit against the New York Times.

The Washington telecommunications lobbyist dropped her $27 million claim against the Grey Lady on Thursday, and is now “personally vindicated,” according to her attorneys. She has, however, settled for a more unusual payoff — her own op-ed, featured in the pages of the paper itself.

On Feb. 21, 2008, the paper ran a story implying that Ms. Iseman had carried on a romantic affair with Sen. John McCain after she appeared before the Senate Commerce Committee. She sued the Times in December — to ultimately emerge with her own cautionary tale for both press and public.

“That judicial contest has now been concluded in this instance, but the issue deserves ongoing scrutiny, certainly in our schools of law and journalism, but also in the arena of public debate. Indeed, the essential quality of our public discourse, even the very character of our national culture, will be heavily influenced by why, where, and how we draw this line. The rules of engagement ought not be the same for public figures and private persons,” her attorneys noted in an editorial statement published at the Times Website Thursday afternoon.

See it all here.

The Times — which currently has its own financial challenges — provided an explanation of the story in a “Note to Readers”. It said, “The article didn’t state, and the Times did not intend to conclude, that Ms. Iseman had engaged in a romantic affair with Senator McCain or an unethical relationship on behalf of her clients in breach of the public trust.”

Still, executive editor WIlliam Keller said his paper still stood by its story, “and we are proud of it. The McCain campaign and some of its supporters set out aggressively to portray the article in question as a story about an unsubstantiated affair. But it was not that, either explicitly or implicitly.”

Click here for Mr. Keller’s complete statement.

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- Jennifer Harper, national desk reporter