The Washington Times - October 18, 2008, 01:25AM

If the political mudslinging wasn’t enough between the presidential candidates and their vice-president picks, the focus is now sticky on an accusation of media bias with The New York Times as the target.

The newspaper had been working on a profile of Cindy McCain and sending reporters to Arizona and around the country to scoop up a story.


But the assignment heated up after NYT reporter Jodi Kantor sent a Facebook message to a 16-year-old schoolmate of the McCain family’s daughter, Bridget.

The McCain campaign released a statement that reprimands the “series of vicious attacks” on McCain’s wife.

“… Though  Mrs. McCain’s battle with drug addiction and even her miscarriages are again reported, the paper entirely ignores a life devoted to family and charity work in the most impoverished and violent corners of the world — except when a detail can be quibbled with so as to imply some kind of deceit,” read a statement from McCain-Palin spokesman Michael Goldfarb.

The campaign team has obtained a copy of an e-mail sent by the reporter and has accused her of ‘duping’ the unsuspecting minor by “soliciting ‘advice’ on how best to approach the story …”

Here is an excerpt to the Facebook message:

“I saw on facebook that you went to Xavier, and if you don’t mind, I’d love to ask you some advice about a story. I’m a reporter at the New York Times, writing a profile of Cindy McCain, and we are trying to get a sense of what she is like as a mother. So I’m reaching out to fellow parents at her kids’ schools. My understanding is that some of her older kids went to Brophy/Xavier, but I’m trying to figure out what school her 16 year old daughter Bridget attends— and a few people said it was PCDS. Do you know if that’s right? Again, we’re not really reporting on the kids, just seeking some fellow parents who can talk about what Mrs. McCain is like.

Also, if you know anyone else who I should talk to — basically anyone who has encountered Mrs. McCain and might be able to share impressions — that would be great.Thanks so much for any help you can give me.”

A letter dated October 1, 2008, by Cindy’s attorney, John Dowd, to NYT Managing Editor Bill Keller, is a call for his editorial staff to “put your biases and agendas aside” and advised not to allow his reporters to pal up with former AVMT employee Tom Gosinski and Cindy’s cousin Jamie Clark.  Mr. Gosinski was fired by Cindy and he sued for wrongful termination; Clark is accused of attempting to blackmail Cindy a number of times, according to the letter.

“These allegations and efforts to hurt Cindy have been a matter of public record for sixteen years. Cindy has been quite open and frank about her issues for all these years. Any further attempts to harass and injure her based on the information from Gosinski and Clark will be met with an appropriate response. While she may be in the public eye, she is not public property nor the property of the press to abuse and defame,” according to the letter.

The New York Times is not the only publication the McCain campaign is trying to, in their view, clean up.

Two weeks ago, The Washington Post was criticized for pointing to the wife’s troubled past.


- Kimberly Kweder, online editor, The Washington Times