Telecom lobbyist Vicki Iseman appeared on the CBS Early Show Monday morning to discuss her recently settled lawsuit against the New York Times, which ran a front-page"expose" in February 2007 strongly suggesting, without evidence, that Iseman had an affair with Sen. John McCain. Iseman theorized that the Times came up with nothing, but just couldn't walk away from a juicy story.
Below are excerpts from her talk with Early Show co-host Maggie Rodriguez, as transcribed by MRC media analyst Kyle Drennen.
RODRIGUEZ: Let's start with the question that everyone wants to hear you answer, did you have an affair with Senator John McCain?
ISEMAN: No, I did not. And four New York Times reporters, two editors, their entire institution, 200 people that they went out and sought to try and figure out if this was true or not, came back and said there's no there, there.
RODRIGUEZ: So let - was there anything in your behavior towards him that could have given people that impression?
ISEMAN: No, this all went back to one singular person, a political operative who had left the Senator's campaign under acrimonious circumstances and this is where everything - all roads lead back to him.
RODRIGUEZ: Alright, so you believe that John Weaver goes to the New York Times, they start to investigate this, they call you, they send you emails, and you tell them if they have any questions, 'send them to me by email.'
ISEMAN: I did, but that was after they showed up at my house, that was after they started calling people in my office asking specifically if I had had an affair with Senator McCain. It was unbelievable. I mean, I - they were calling people who I hadn't seen in fifteen years, they were finding names of people who used to live with me out of college from my utility bills. They were calling friends and family and colleagues and former staffers, it was just - people I'd hired and fired at my firm, it was nuts. It was just unbelievable.
RODRIGUEZ: You - you respond to questions via email, they print the story, how does your life change at that point?
ISEMAN: You know, I - it was, it was stunning, it was absolutely stunning. They had four camera crews show up at my niece and nephew's school in rural western Pennsylvania. People are calling my grandmother to say 'aren't you embarrassed that you're daughter isn't speaking out?' And I didn't want to speak out, I didn't want to be part of this campaign. I mean, I believe in the process, this is why I'm in this world, and it just - it was crazy. People would say to me 'I'm not getting in an elevator with you.' A woman walked up to me on an airplane and said 'you should be ashamed of yourself for what you did to that man.'
RODRIGUEZ: So everybody believed that you had an affair with him, even though the article, according to the Times, didn't mean to imply that and certainly didn't prove that, all of a sudden you were that girl?
ISEMAN: The Times developed a caricature of me that they knew was not true. They put a photograph of me in a gold dress. They talked about the fact that I had showed up at events with the Senator - and the implication was many. You just can't do this, you practically can't do this. I cannot pick him up, show up at events, be at his arm, have to be pulled away from him, this just doesn't happen. And by the way, he was running for president, he wasn't even in D.C. when - during the time frame they said that this was happening.
RODRIGUEZ: You sued the New York Times, they printed a note to the readers that said 'we never intended to imply she was having an affair with him.' Where do you think they went so wrong? Because they have sources and they did try to contact you. Where do you think the New York Times failed here?
ISEMAN: I think they became so invested in this I believe that they would have had to have believed in the beginning that this was true and they became so invested they - they ended up sending people across the country that I know of, to L.A. at least three times, to rural Mississippi to find a young woman who had worked with me ten years ago that wasn't returning their calls. They became so invested in this that they couldn't walk away. It - I can't think of any other reason why, then, again, at least two of these reporters I respected in the past and this was just out of control, they just could not, for some reason, walk away.