John McCain denies romantic relationship with lobbyist

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Thursday, February 21, 2008


United States Presidential candidate John McCain (R-AZ) has denied that he had a romantic relationship with a female telecommunications (Vickie Iseman) lobbyist and stated the suggestion that he displayed favoritism for her clients is "not true."

The denial follows a report in Thursday's New York Times that cited former advisors who believed McCain's relationship with the lobbyist had become sexual.

"I'm very disappointed in the article. It's not true," the likely Republican Party presidential nominee said as his wife, Cindy, stood beside him during a news conference called to address the matter.

"I've served this nation honorably for more than half a century," said McCain, a four-term Arizona senator and former Navy pilot. "At no time have I ever done anything that would betray the public trust."

"I intend to move on," he added so as to not have to answer more questions.

The New York Times quoted anonymous aides as saying they had urged McCain and Iseman to stay away from each other prior to his failed presidential campaign in 2000. In its own follow-up story, The Washington Post quoted John Weaver, who split with McCain last year, as saying he met with lobbyist Iseman and urged her to steer clear of McCain.

But McCain said he was unaware of any such conversation, and denied that his aides ever tried to talk to him about his interactions with Iseman.

"I never discussed it with John Weaver. As far as I know, there was no necessity for it," McCain said. "I don't know anything about it," he added. "John Weaver is a friend of mine. He remains a friend of mine. But I certainly didn't know anything of that nature."

"More importantly, my children and I not only trust my husband, but know that he would never do anything to not only disappoint our family, but disappoint the people of America. He's a man of great character," Cindy McCain said.

The couple smiled nervously throughout the questioning at a Toledo, Ohio hotel.

"We think the story speaks for itself," Times executive editor Bill Keller said in a written statement Thursday. "On the timing, our policy is we publish stories when they are ready."

McCain's remaining rival for the Republican nomination, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, called McCain "a good decent honorable man" and said he accepted McCain's response.

"I've campaigned now on the same stage or platform with John McCain for 14 months. I only know him to be a man of integrity," Huckabee said in Houston, Texas. "Today he denied any of that was true. I take him at his word. For me to get into it is completely immaterial."

The published reports said McCain and Iseman each denied having a sexually-oriented relationship. Neither story asserted that there was a sexually-oriented relationship and offered no evidence that there was, reporting only that aides worried about the appearance of McCain having close ties to a lobbyist with business before the Senate Commerce Committee on which McCain served.

One of McCain's senior advisers, Charlie Black, told CNN that the campaign first learned in October (2007) the paper was working on a story about McCain's relationship with Iseman.

He said that information and documents provided to the paper disputes suggestions McCain tried to use his influence to help Iseman.

Black further said The New York Times is a liberal newspaper that was printing "rumors and gossip" to arrive at a harder truth, described as a humble attack on the conservative McCain.

"He doesn't do favors for anyone," Black said of McCain.