By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Hoyt doesn’t buy it, either

New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt joins with the rest of the world in criticizing Times editors for passing along the concerns of anonymous former aides that John McCain was having sex with a lobbyist named Vicki Iseman during the 2000 presidential campaign.

Hoyt specifically disagrees with executive editor Bill Keller’s contention that sex wasn’t the point of the story, writing, “I think that ignores the scarlet elephant in the room.” And he closes with this:

I asked Jill Abramson, the managing editor for news, if The Times could have done the story and left out the allegation about an affair. “That would not have reflected the essential truth of why the aides were alarmed,” she said.

But what the aides believed might not have been the real truth. And if you cannot provide readers with some independent evidence, I think it is wrong to report the suppositions or concerns of anonymous aides about whether the boss is getting into the wrong bed.

Hoyt is absolutely right, of course. The question is why Times editors are being so obstinate. I wonder if the problem is that they know too much, and I don’t mean that in a good way. I imagine they have heard more about the sex allegations than they’ve been able to report, and thus feel more confident than they should about the story that appeared on Thursday. (I continue to think McCain’s sex life is no one’s business but his and his family’s, but that’s another matter.)

Still, we have to assume that if they had anything approaching proof, they’d let us know. And since they haven’t, the story remains an object lesson in how not to practice journalism.

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He’s just sayin’, that’s all


  1. Anonymous

    Dan,The Macro point of McCain being “victimized” by the New York Times is already planted in the minds of Conservatives and Moderates. The Micro Wave of stories that throw cold water or re-inforce the story about his relationship with lobbyists is meaningless to that same voter block. It’s too inside baseball and beside the point to those voters. The left is wasting its time nuancing the story. The left and the MSM need to anticipate the attacks that will be coming Obama’s way. Think pictures of him in Muslim Garb (just saw those creeping out onto sites) aka late hour Clinton Oppo Research document dumps you’ll see this week. Lobbying will be small potatoes. Clinton will want to muddy him so she can pick up after a one term McCain Presidency.

  2. Anonymous

    This is an example for the ages of “solving” an internal newspaper problem/squabble at the expense of the external product/result. I’m not happy piling on but it’s a good lesson for future newsroom bosses. Look at how Keller is eating the whole plate, and he’d in fact been holding this stinker back for months virtually by himself. He gets props from me for being a standup guy.

  3. Rick

    From Clark Hoyt’s column today…”The article had repercussions for both McCain and The Times. He may benefit, at least in the short run, from a conservative backlash against the “liberal” New York Times.”…. I take it he doesn’t buy the fact that the news and editorial content of the Times is undoubtedly slanted to the left. Or is he suggesting that’s what only Conservatives think of the Times?

  4. Rick in Duxbury

    Rick,I’ll let them write “liberal” if they let me write “news”. I can’t wait to see what they do with Obama’s Weathermen/Bernadine Dohrn problem. Has a previous presidential candidate ever had acknowledged supporters who had been on the FBI’s “10 Most Wanted List”? Another first for this campaign, I suspect.

  5. Anonymous

    Given that the Times has spent innumerable column inches on speculation and innuendo about the Clintons’ love life, both pre- and post-Monica, it’s refreshing that in Hoyt they’ve at last developed a least a small sense of shame. I care nothing about any candidates’ affectionate preferences except in so much as it affects their policy decisions. That is the McCain story that should be pursued.

  6. Steve

    Bob Somerby takes on the Times McCain story today. Shorter Howler: “Weak”.But leave it to Somerby to come up with a question that hasn’t really been asked yet:”Rutenberg is oddly imprecise at various points in this long, slippery piece. But this is precisely the slick, slippery way the Times has played the game in the past. They did it to Clinton and Gore without end. Our question: Why have they turned on a sanctified solon? What on earth convinced the Times to sex up John McCain?”What on earth indeed.

  7. Peter Porcupine

    I think the Times story was entirely successful. Its purpose was to manipulate the primary and try to see a weaker GOP candidate get the nomination by postponing the story past Super Tuesday. My Beloved remains independent and occassionally takes Democrat ballots to vote for the likes of a Kucinich in a tight race.Same basic principle.

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