Lobbist sues NY Times over allegations of McCain affair

Michael Calderon:

Vikki Iseman, the D.C. lobbyist who was alleged to have an improper relationship with Sen. John McCain in an explosive New York Times story last February, is now suing the paper for $27 million.

Long Island Business News report
s that "the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Richmond on Tuesday, alleges the article falsely communicated that Iseman and McCain had an illicit 'romantic' relationship in 1999 when he was chair of the Senate Commerce Committee and she was a lobbyist representing clients before Congress."

Both McCain and Iseman denied any romantic relationship.

Also named in the 36-page suit as defendants are exexcutive editor Bill Keller, Washington bureau chief Dean Baquet, and reporters Jim Rutenberg, David Kirkpatrick, Stephen Labaton and Marilyn Thompson (who's since joined the Washington Post).

The suit may raise some interesting issues. Under NY Times v. Sullivan, McCain would have a difficult time recovering because his burden of proof would require him to prove the Times new the allegations were untrue but the printed them anyway. If Iseman can show she was not a public figure, and I think she has a shot at that, then she may just have to show the allegations were untrue.

Proving damages may be a more difficult issue. She is apparetly still working as a lobbyist and there is no indication that her practices has suffered. That leaves her with having to prove she has suffered mentally, emotionally, and/or health health related damages. The defendants will demand to see her health records including mental health records as well as the billing. That could get messy.

The Iseman story was one of several hit pieces on the McCain team including his wife. I suspect that Iseman's lawyers may argue that she was used as a pawn in the Times attempt to help elect Barack Obama by running derrogatory stories about McCain. That could make for a very interesting case.


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