NYT Sued Over Story Implying McCain Had an Affair

The Associated Press is reporting that the lobbyist the New York Times insinuated had an affair with John McCain (here is some background information on the NYT piece) has filed suit against the paper to the tune of $27 million:

A Washington lobbyist sued The New York Times for $27 million Tuesday over an article that she says gave the false impression she had an affair with Sen. John McCain in 1999. 

Vicki L. Iseman filed the defamation suit in U.S. District Court in Richmond. It also names as defendants the Times' executive editor, its Washington bureau chief and four reporters.

Apparently she has wanted to sue since the story was published but she waited until now because she didn't want to become a distraction. But the lawsuit is very adamant in its charges of misconduct:

The Times was so concerned about being scooped that it printed a story "to pack the maximum sensational impact with the minimum factual support." The lawsuit contends she suffered an "avalanche of scorn, derision, and ridicule" that damaged her health. 

The lawsuit cites accounts from other media, political pundits and the Times' public editor, Clark Hoyt, that interpreted the article as meaning that McCain and Iseman had an affair.

Despite this the NYT is standing by its story and will fight the lawsuit.

"We fully stand behind the article. We continue to believe it to be true and accurate, and that we will prevail," the statement said. "As we said at the time, it was an important piece that raised questions about a presidential contender and the perception that he had been engaged in conflicts of interest."

Unfortunately, even though the story they printed absolutely destroys all boundary of journalistic integrity, the NYT will probably defeat this suit. Suits against media outlets almost always lose. I'll leave you with the thoughts of Keith Werhan:

Keith Werhan, a constitutional law professor at Tulane University, said key to Iseman's case will be how the court defines her -- as a public figure or a private figure. Public figures have to meet a higher standard of proof, and show malice by a news outlet. 

Werhan also said the Times could be protected if it accurately quoted McCain's former aides about their perceptions of his relationship with Iseman. 

"If all those statements are true, then it seems to me the Times is not at fault for reporting that," Werhan said. 

"It's essentially hard to win a defamation suit," Werhan added. "The idea is the First Amendment has its thumb on the press' side of scales."