- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 21, 2008

Sen. John McCain this morning said the New York Times report implying that he did favors for a female lobbyist is “not true.”

I’m very disappointed in the article,” Mr. McCain, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, said at a press conference this morning in Ohio.

He stood with his wife, Cindy, as he denied he had a romantic relationship with lobbyist Vicki Iseman, who the Times reported was such a worrying presence at the McCain Senate offices and 2000 presidential campaign offices that staffers took steps to keep her from Mr. McCain.

Mr. McCain took questions from reporters and said his focus will remain on securing the Republican nomination.

“At no time have I ever done anything that would betray the public trust,” he said. The New York Times report cited unnamed former McCain staffers who said they had to warn Mr. McCain about the lobbyist and who said they took steps to keep her away from Mr. McCain. The newspaper used the anecdote as an opportunity to examine Mr. McCain’s record, including accusations nearly two decades ago that he and four other senators used their influence on behalf of Charles Keating, a McCain supporter who ran a savings and loan. In responding forcefully, Mr. McCain may have turned the fight into a battle between Republicans and conservatives on the one hand and the Times on the other. Already this morning some conservative leaders were saying the paper’s reporting was over the top and would backfire. Bob Bennett, an attorney for Mr. McCain, told Fox News last night the story was “a smear job.” “All of the matters that they allude to, I mean, they are not even very specific, we answered fully to the New York Times. We showed them that there was just nothing there. And, unfortunately, they have just obviously disregarded all of the hard evidence that we presented,” he said.

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