McCain Calls NYT Report 'Smear Campaign'

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WASHINGTON - With his reputation on the line, John McCain emphatically denied any inappropriate relationship with a female lobbyist, Thursday.

He said a report by The New York Times suggesting favoritism for her clients is "not true."

How will this affect McCain's run for the presidency? Watch Chris Wilson, a leading Republican strategist, for more following this report.

"I'm very disappointed in the article. It's not true," he said, during a news conference called to address the matter. His wife Cindy stood beside him, and also answered questions from reporters.

"I've served this nation honorably for more than half a century," McCain said. "At no time have I ever done anything that would betray the public trust."

"I intend to move on," he added.

A New York Times story and a Washington Post follow-up report question the relationship between the Republican frontrunner and a Washington lobbyist during his first run for The White House eight years ago.

The New York Times story also questions whether McCain did any favors for the woman,Vicki Iseman, who represented companies that made major campaign contributions to the Arizona senator.

Last night when asked about the report, McCain had little to say.

"I haven't seen it yet, so I can't comment," the senator said.

McCain denied any romantic involvement when lodging a formal complaint against questions the paper had been asking. Iseman also denied they were romantically involved.

But the report quotes anonymous aides who say they were so convinced of an inappropriate relationship that they confronted McCain and even tried to block Iseman's access to the senator.

McCain's campaign responded to the article likening it to "gutter politics". saying the Times "lowered its stardards" in publishing the story and "engaged in a hit and run smear campaign"

In a written statement, a spokesperson defended McCain saying: "He has never violated the public trust, never done favors for special interests or lobbyists, and will not allow a smear campaign to distract from the issues at stake in this election."

The newspaper 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 longtime aide John Weaver, who split with McCain last year, as saying he met with lobbyist Iseman and urged her to steer clear of McCain.

Weaver told the Times he arranged the meeting before the 2000 campaign after "a discussion among the campaign leadership" about Iseman.

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.

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