Conservative media outlets lambasted the New York Times today for front-page story reporting Sen. John McCain had what aides believed was a romantic relationship with a lobbyist in 1999.
Conservative talk radio hosts, who for weeks have railed against the maverick senator's candidacy arguing he isn't conservative enough, today choose to offer tepid support for the presumptive Republican nominee by dismissing the New York Times story.
There is nothing in it here that you can say is true," said conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh on his radio show Thursday afternoon of the story.
"It is beyond disgraceful," said Sean Hannity on his radio show Thursday afternoon. "There's not throughout this entire article, a shred of evidence to corroborate or back up what the lead of this entire story is."
Many conservative media outlets had McCain defenders on their shows. On Hannity's radio show, Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, who has endorsed McCain, said the Times "puked up a nine-year-old rumor and put it on the front page of the New York Times with no corroboration, no named sources."
But influential conservative radio hosts also slapped McCain today for what they called a "cozy" relationship with the mainstream press.
"If you let the media make you, you are subjecting yourself to being able to let the media destroy you," Limbaugh said.
"The important question for John McCain today is: is he going to learn the right lesson from this?" Limbaugh said. "The lesson is liberals are to be defeated.You cannot reach across the aisle. You cannot welcome their media members on your bus and get all cozy with them and expect eternal love from them."
Laura Ingraham, a conservative radio host who had backed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination, also criticized McCain's relationship with the mainstream media — even criticizing the senator for holding a press conference with the mainstream media today to address the New York Times story.
"I ask the McCain campaign this question: Do you need talk radio now?" she asked on her show this morning. "Do you think that talk radio's important to set the record straight, or do you think a press conference, where the media is shouting question after question at you — do you think that's going to put an end to all this?"
But after her dig at the Arizona senator, Ingraham lambasted the New York Times, accusing the paper of waiting to publish the story to do the most harm to McCain and the GOP.
"You wait until it's pretty much beyond a doubt that he's going to be the Republican nominee, and then you let it drop," she said, "drop some acid in the pool, contaminate the whole pool. That's what the New York Times thinks."
Limbaugh also suggested the New York Times endorsed McCain in January just to tear him down a month later.
"This paper endorsed McCain, sat on the story and now puts it out just prior to McCain wrapping up the nomination," Limbaugh said.
The critical New York Times story was published at a time when the Arizona senator is urging GOP conservatives with reservations about his record to coalesce around him as the Republican nominee.