February 21st, 2008
03:45 PM ET
15 years ago

Blitzer: Journalists 'not going to let up' on McCain

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/02/14/art.mccain0214.ap.jpg caption="Blitzer: The story of McCain and lobbyist Vicki Iseman may 'have legs.'"] WASHINGTON (CNN) - Once again, a major news organization makes a stunning allegation involving a prominent politician. This time it’s The New York Times versus John McCain.

The Republican presidential candidate went before the news media today to flatly deny the accusations – namely, that he may have had an improper relationship with a Washington telecommunications lobbyist, Vicki Iseman. And the New York Times issued a statement sticking by its story. Now, a lot of other major news organizations are following up.

The Washington Post wasted little time. In its front-page story today, reporters Jeffrey Birnbaum and Michael Shear confirmed an account in the Times of a meeting between former McCain senior adviser John Weaver and Iseman in Union Station in Washington where he “urged her to stay away from McCain.”

The Post reporters wrote: “Association with a lobbyist would undermine his image as an opponent of special interests, aides had concluded.” The Times said aides were concerned about what Iseman was saying publicly - whether she had given the impression of a special relationship with or special treatment from McCain.

Weaver was quoted on-the-record.

The Post then quoted unnamed sources as saying that the senator’s “small circle of advisers also confronted McCain directly…warning him that his continued ties to a lobbyist who had business before the powerful commerce committee he chaired threatened to derail his presidential ambitions” during his first White House bid in 2000.

McCain, at his news conference, denied that his senior staff had ever confronted him about his friendship with Iseman. He said they may have had discussions among themselves, but they never approached him.

That is but one of several discrepancies between what The Washington Post and The New York Times are reporting, on the one hand, and what McCain and his campaign are saying on the other.

Here’s the bottom line: I suspect this story, as we in the journalistic community say, has legs. News organizations are not going to let up – not yet, especially when a potential President of the United States is concerned.

–CNN Anchor Wolf Blitzer

Filed under: Wolf Blitzer
soundoff (160 Responses)
  1. Rob Mitchell

    I think McCain survive this, but you're right, Wolf, this could be on the front page for a while unless some evidence comes up that suggests otherwise. Or worse, the story turns out to be true–a lot of factors point to this. NYT endorsed McCain weeks before this story and credible people worked on this story. The key question is will this information be dug up soon? Also, are they waiting for McCain to pull a "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" and then NYT pulls out the smoking gun. Either way, this could be nothing or everything.

    Good report, Wolf, always love your blog posts and the Situation Room.

    February 21, 2008 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  2. spiritguide

    It is the media's responsability to follow up on any and all stories of interest about every Presidential candidate, be it McCain, Obama, Clinton or whomever. Although I am an enthusiastic Obama supporter, I welcome and request in-depth follow-up investgative reporting on the Larry Sinclair Obama story, Michelle's comment about pride in her country, Hillary's new swift-boat organization, and McCain's possible extramarital relationship(s) and ties to lobbyists, etc. All are relevant and important. This is what a free and open press and democracy are all about!

    February 21, 2008 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  3. Jerry

    All you had to do was look at McCain's face and his expressions this morning and without a doubt he was telling a big lie. Any time he gets questioned about his life all he can say is that he served this country for twenty four years, it he is talking about his time in the Senate then all I can say is that he has been well paid to do nothing. It would be like drawing a large welfare check and that not only applies to him but most of the members of congress.

    February 21, 2008 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  4. U.S. Army Vet.

    This is an obvious attempt to drum up support for a shagging candidate and his shagging campaign. He, McCain, is no more and no less a leach than Bill Clinton, and that is saying a lot. Big Bill got himself in big trouble over this issue. Let's see if McCain can avoid big trouble.

    February 21, 2008 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  5. Cylvia Santillan

    Wolf, its time the garbage surfaces about McCain, just as it starting for Obama and has all along for Clinton...what can the media possibly dig up about the preacher Huckabee? I can hardly wait to see what the media digs up to mire the profession of journalism even more. By the way, I'm so glad you won't be narrating the debate tonight. The last Obama/Clinton debate you orchestrated solidified my continued disgust at the media coverage of this election. Basically, you're the worst. Why can't you just report the news and stop the spinning. Who cares what you think?

    February 21, 2008 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  6. Paul

    What ever happened to unbiased reporting?

    February 21, 2008 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  7. SS

    As we say in India Satyameva Jayate.....loosely translates to "Truth Will Out". I think the American electorate is now sufficiently well-read enough to sift thru all the facts, print matter and communications put out there by everyone and judge for itself. All I can suggest is, if there is evidence of lobbyists influencing policy to the detriment of the average American, we need to take a stand on it.....it's now or never. Saying this is how Washington does business just doesn't cut it any more....I don't care if the politician is Republican or Democrat, politicians should remember....."by the people, for the people etc etc"......

    February 21, 2008 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  8. Moderate this

    Pour it on baby. We can take it. Bring us together behind a real winner not a whiner.

    February 21, 2008 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  9. David Bakody

    Mr. Blitzer:

    All is fair in love and politics, having a hundred lawyers line up on your behave means nothing and McCain knows it. When has has any politician stood up and says opts, the press is right? Hey even when they do they change their minds and life goes on. This will not go away, one person in an audience asks a question and the press and cameras are on McCain front and centre....

    February 21, 2008 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  10. Marc

    Interesting timing. Right after McCain makes a slight criticism of Obama after the primaries this week, NY Times breaks this story. Looks like another case of the media doing everything it can to ensure an Obama victory in November. Disgusting.

    February 21, 2008 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  11. Dan


    You know as well as anyone that "legs" isn't a sufficient justification for a high profile front page story. You know the DC way – innocent until its in the media. The cost to the campaign and to the debate over real issues is high. Had it contained basic evidence, it would have been worth publishing. Clearly they are abusing the media's ability to use annoymous sources. This should infuriate you as a prominent journalist. Further, the omission of clear evidence that calls the article's validity into question should raise a lot of flags. And the articles timing – quite suspicious.

    It's not a question of letting up. No one wants to see that. This country has varying ideals, but we are all American's first and foremost and our sense of justice is precise. This is not justice. Not justice to the Presidency, to McCain, to journalism, to the election process and to the American People.

    February 21, 2008 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  12. lin

    What does the Clintons and the Mc Cains have in common?
    Cheating husbands.

    February 21, 2008 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  13. David

    Only in America are we so preoccupied with peoples sexual habits and functions. I'm actually rather surprised we haven't had arguments about which way a candidates wipes – front to back or back to front. Mating habits have nothing to do with character. Any first year biology student or Antropology student, or even sociologist, will tell you this. The evangelicals need to take thier pre-historic rhetoric and thinking and and understand that "Leave it to Beaver" went off the air half a century ago.

    February 21, 2008 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  14. Barbara

    Your are so right, "where there's smoke, there's fire". McCain should just except the fact that this has came to light, and deal with it, not lie about it, as one lie will need another one, and so on. Every time we hear something about a public figure, it always turn out to be something to the story.
    If these people are going to be in public life, they need to keep the "devil" out of their backyards, or stop trying to smear other's when they know things are not all top shape in their house.
    We went through this with Bill Clinton, we don't need another Leader with this kinda of garbage.
    We all can be forgiven for mistakes we make in life, but make sure we don't always bring up the minor errors of others.

    February 21, 2008 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  15. Dana

    They don't criticize Obama.

    February 21, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  16. Cheryl from California

    I continue to hear Senators McCain and Clinton go on and on about the lack of experience Senator Obama has to offer. I may be wrong, but I'm sure I'm not, but none of the candidates have presidential experience. Yes, Senators McCain and Clinton have more experience as Senators, but this is a race for the presidency. Secondly, experience only means exposure, it does not mean you did it right. Lastly, why are Senator Clintons supporters comparing Former President Clintons record to Senator Obama's? Whose name is on the ballot Hillary Clinton or Bill Clinton? When did Senator Clinton balance the budget? I know it may seem that I am a Obama supporter, but I am a registered Republican.

    February 21, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  17. Frank

    I wander why you guy's in the media keep saying what HRC needs to do in order to come back rather than what Obama needs to do in order to seal the deal. A few weeks ago you guy's were talking about issues, issues, issues and why today you are talking about tactics or negativity?

    If Barack Obama was down by 11 you whould have asked him to drop out, why dont you ask HRC to drop out?

    Obama will stay above the fray, stick to his message of hope, talk about the issue that we care about, and show the american people that he has a track record of making change.
    "Fired Up and Read To Go."
    Obama 08

    February 21, 2008 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  18. greg

    Judging from the wave of response there is no room in journalism for questions. Only opinions. I am now smeared personally by a pack of readers who dont like my questions. I guess this is what is called "New Journalism". Opinion without facts or questions.

    February 21, 2008 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  19. California Independent

    After this season of journalistic smear of Clinton, I doubt the people care what the media has to say any more.

    CNN hearts Obama.

    February 21, 2008 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  20. ne,pa

    It is not a stretch to believe this story when you look at McCain's history.
    He cheated on and ditched his first wife (who was badly injured) for heiress Cindy who stole pills from her own charity. (Google it)
    I'm sick of the way he acts so self righteous...

    February 21, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  21. Tracy

    I am not a supporter of McCain, but I feel sorry for this mess.. I think all of the candidates need to stop with all the smearing and run a clean race because that is what is going to matter the most.

    February 21, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  22. Frank

    By the way Wolf, Clemens probably comitted perjury but he is getting away with it. Marion Jones did the same thing and she is behind bar,
    How fair is that?

    February 21, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  23. Carrie

    John McCain just lost the general election.

    February 21, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  24. jd

    lobbyist- see what happens

    February 21, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  25. Judy Aiello

    Who has the most to win from the John McCain story in the New York Times? How about Mitt Romney. He and McCain do not like each other and after McCain is trashed again by someone in his own party , Mitt can come in and save the day like he supossedly did for the Olympics. Don't count him out. He said he suspended his campain, he did not say quit. All of the news agencies said quit. I believe he is waiting in the wings to be asked to save the day again.
    What a farce that would be.

    February 21, 2008 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
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