The Iseman Sueth

By Kate Barrett

Jan 2, 2009 10:12am

News you may have missed while you were living your life: lobbyist Vicki Iseman is suing the New York Times for $27 million for the Times’ Feb. 21, 2008 story "falsely communicating that Ms. Iseman and Senator John McCain had an illicit ‘romantic’ and unethical relationship in breach of the public trust in 1999…"

Iseman is also suing the reporters who wrote the story, the Washington, D.C., bureau chief and executive editor Bill Keller.

McCain, too, as you may recall, denied wholeheartedly that he had had an affair with Iseman.

The suit alleges that the defamation was made by the literal words in the article but also "what was suggested and implied ‘between the lines.’… how the article was, in fact, received and understood by readers, other news organizations and commentators."

Iseman’s suit also takes the perhaps less than always responsible remarks of commentators and other reporters — mostly from cable — as evidence of the Times’ defamation.

"Ms. Iseman has never had a romantic relationship of any kind with Senator McCain," the suit says (for those wondering what discovery might reveal). "Ms. Iseman did not engage in any behavior toward him that was anything other than professional and appropriate."

In a statement, Abbe R. Serphos, a spokeswoman for the Times, said: "We fully stand behind the article. We continue to believe it to be true and accurate, and that we will prevail. 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."

The suit says that Ms. Iseman, as a result of the Times story, "all hope of anything resembling a normal life for her had been destroyed and permanently altered. … She was viewed as someone who used an inappropriate romantic relationship as a means of obtaining legislative influence…" Colleagues changed their attitudes toward her.

"The article destroyed the heart and soul of Ms. Iseman’s professional identity and sense of personal self-worth," the suit says, alleging a "corresponding deterioration of her internal mental, emotional, and physical health. … Ms. Iseman suffered intense and severe emotional, psychological, and medical distress and damage."

She says the Times published this story with "actual malice… — with knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard for truth or falsity."

Related: the Wall Street Journal’s Ashby Jones looks into whether or not Iseman would qualify as a "public figure" HERE.

- jpt

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