Vicki Iseman on CBS: NYT ‘Out of Control’ On False McCain Affair Story
On Monday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez spoke with lobbyist Vicki Iseman, who a year ago was named in a New York Times article implying she had an affair with then presidential candidate John McCain, an accusation Iseman flatly denied: "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...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...They became so invested in this that they couldn't walk away...this was just out of control, they just could not, for some reason, walk away."
While Iseman detailed how absurd the Times’ accusations were, Rodriguez still worked to give the paper the benefit of the doubt: "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?...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?
Here is the full transcript of the interview:
MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: For the first time this morning, a Washington lobbyist linked romantically to Senator John McCain is speaking out. This news broke during the peak of Senator McCain's presidential campaign. When the article came out in the New York Times we heard from Senator McCain, but we have not heard from Vicki Iseman she is here this morning for an exclusive interview. Good morning, Vicki.
VICKI ISEMAN: Thank you for having me.
RODRIGUEZ: Thank you for being here. 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: You're talking about John Weaver, who is the only source that is named in that New York Times article. Let's talk about the time that you had close contact, you say it was the only time you had close contact with Senator McCain, you were on a plane flying back from an event with John Weaver and Senator McCain, after that trip, John Weaver says that he called a meeting with you to tell you to stay away from the Senator. Is that true?
ISEMAN: John Weaver did ask me to visit with him for coffee, which I did, and when I met with him, we sat down and he said he had taken umbrage with a conversation, brief words that I had with Senator McCain about the fact that Senator McCain just asked 'what did you think of my speech?' at something. John Weaver was there and I said, you know, I like it when you interact with the audience better and apparently, I don't know if John Weaver had written the speech, or -- I don't know what the circumstances were, but John Weaver took offense at that, and decided he's sit me down and sometimes this the situation, this is a political guy, not a -- not a staff guy on the hill, but a political guy, who decided that, you know, his ego I guess had been bruised somewhat and that he was going to very aggressively and assertively make a point to me that my opinion was something that I should not share with the Senator, whether he asked for it or not.
RODRIGUEZ: So up until that time, you only saw the Senator occasionally, as a lobbyist, you had that one trip with him, after which you had that meeting with John Weaver. He told you -- he scolded you for criticizing the speech, but that was it? He never said 'stay away from the Senator, you're getting to close to him.'
ISEMAN: That was it-
RODRIGUEZ: That never happened.
ISEMAN: -but to be very clear, I was a big supporter of Senator McCain's back in 2000 and I wanted him to win, I thought a lot of him, I -- you know, I debated people on the fact that I thought he should be president, so I was a supporter, I mean that -- that was very clear. But as far as John Weaver or anybody else, and again, all roads go back to him, any assertions that there is anything inappropriate, ethically, or, you know, professionally or personally, are just not true.
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.
RODRIGUEZ: Alright, Vicki Iseman, thanks for sharing your story this morning.
ISEMAN: Thank you very much, appreciate it.
RODRIGUEZ: Appreciate it.