McCain speaks on New York Times story

At a press conference, the presumptive GOP nominee denies an account of a relationship between him and a lobbyist.

Published February 21, 2008 3:27PM (EST)

At a press conference Thursday morning, with three American flags at his back and his wife by his side, John McCain said that the New York Times story about a possible romantic relationship he had with a lobbyist, and potential special treatment he'd given her, was false.

"Obviously I'm very disappointed in the article. It's not true. As has been pointed out, I've served this nation honorably for more than half a century ... At no time have I ever done anything that would betray the public trust, nor make a decision which in any way would not be in the public interest and would favor anyone or any organization," McCain said.

McCain's opening statement at the press conference focused on the issue of special treatment, and on whether he'd given special treatment to the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman. McCain avoided the issue of whether there was a romantic relationship between him and Iseman, but reporters were allowed to ask questions afterward, and naturally, that was one of the first things to come up. McCain denied that as well, saying he and Iseman were only friends and that he had many other friends who were lobbyists (though McCain, whose reputation as above lobbying is important to him, didn't actually use the word lobbyist).

McCain looked sad, beaten down, at the beginning of the press conference and for much of its duration, but he did manage to crack a few smiles, even laugh, and he remained ever confident in denying the Times story. His only immediately apparent slip-up came when he initially denied having ever spoken personally to the paper -- as the Times reported, McCain spoke with its executive editor, Bill Keller, on one occasion. When a reporter pointed out this element of the Times story to McCain, the senator quickly corrected himself and apologized.

McCain's wife, Cindy, also took the lectern on one occasion, saying in response to a reporter's question, "Obviously I'm very disappointed in the New York Times, and more importantly, my children and I not only trust my husband but know that not only would he never do anything to not only disappoint our family, but disappoint the people of America. He's a man of great character." (It's worth nothing that this is McCain's second marriage, and that he cheated on his first wife with Cindy.)

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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2008 Elections John Mccain R-ariz. The New York Times