McCain’s War Against the Gray Lady: A Timeline

By
Vicki Isemen
Photo: Getty Images

The McCain campaign’s latest error-riddled outburst against the New York Times is but the latest spat in a campaign season full of discord between the storied news institution and the nearly-as-old John McCain. The press — what McCain once lovingly referred to as his “base” — has over time become an adversary, something to fear, manipulate, and possibly, down the line, destroy. No organization has been closer to the center of this crumbling relationship than the Times. To see how we got to this point, let’s take a stroll down memory lane.

January 25: In what it described as an easy choice, the Times endorses McCain in the Republican primary, praising his party-bucking stands on immigration reform, global warming, and torture. Everything seems fine … ominously fine. [NYT]

February 21: The Gray Lady runs a lengthy investigation of McCain's inappropriate ties to lobbyists, with the sexiest, and, unsurprisingly, most controversial accusation of all being McCain's purported affair with lobbyist Vicki Iseman. The Times was widely blasted for using anonymous sources as its key evidence for such a bold allegation. The McCain campaign claimed the Times "lowered its standards to engage in a hit-and-run smear campaign." And so it begins… [Fox News]




February 28: One week later, the paper entertains questions regarding whether McCain is even Constitutionally eligible to be president, since he was born in the Panama Canal Zone. The confidence-inspiring answer: Probably. [NYT]






John McCain, John Kerry

Photo: Getty Images

March 7: Onboard McCain's plane, the Times' Elizabeth Bumiller asks McCain about a meeting he had with John Kerry in 2004 to discuss possibly joining his ticket as vice-president. The candidate grew testy, refusing to answer despite repeated attempts by Bumiller. McCain claimed that "everybody in America" knows he had "a private conversation" and there was no need to talk about it. When Bumiller asked McCain why he was "so angry," McCain pretended not to hear her and the matter was dropped. [HuffPo]

May 21: McCain employs the classic Friday–afternoon–before–Memorial–Day–weekend document dump, allowing selected media outlets to view thousands of pages of medical records on location for a brief few hours. Despite the participation of its friends the Washington Post, the Associated Press, all the television news networks, and others, the Times' invitation somehow gets lost in the mail. [NYT]

July 18: Op-ed editor David Shipley rejects a McCain editorial — a week after running one written by Obama. Shipley explained that it "would be terrific to have an article from Sen. McCain that mirrors Sen. Obama's piece" by defining victory and how to achieve it, including specific troop levels and "timetables" — a liberal code word for cowardly surrender. McCain steadfastly refused to make any changes, but deep down a small part of him died as he realized his dreams of making it as a writer would go forever unrealized. [ABC News]

John McCain Celebrity ad

July 30-31: The Times editorial board posts scathing critiques of the McCain campaign on consecutive days, first condemning his notorious Britney/Paris celebrity ad as "a new low" containing racial overtones, and then blasting the McCain campaign for claiming that Obama had played the "race card" when in fact McCain had dealt it. The McCain campaign responds with some free business advice, claiming that the Times' "plummeting" ad revenue and "tanking" share price are a result of the board's "hysterical" reactions to "to any slight, real or imagined, against their preferred candidate," and not, in fact, the long-term societal shift toward other forms of media, as was previously believed. [NYT , NYT , HuffPo]

John McCain on a plane

Getty Images

August 12: The Times runs a correction stating that they had mistakenly been referring to McCain as a "fighter pilot" for the past dozen years, since he had flown attack aircraft in Vietnam, not fighter planes. The editor in charge of standards at the paper actually refers to McCain instead as "a Navy pilot who flew bombing missions from aircraft carriers in the Vietnam War," which doesn't quite roll off the tongue like "fighter pilot." [Politico]



Sarah Palin

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September 2: McCain spokesman Michael Goldfarb calls out Bumiller, once again in the crosshairs, for making up "her own version of events" in a story on the vetting of Sarah Palin. Goldfarb suggests Bumiller "try reporting instead of writing fiction" — unless she wants to ask questions about meetings with John Kerry, in which case, don't report, either. [JohnMcCain.com]



Rick Dvis

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September 22: After the Times delves into McCain campaign manager Rick Davis's lobbyist ties to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, McCain's operational manager Steve Schmidt lashes out. The Times has discarded its "journalistic integrity to advocate for the defeat of John McCain," he claimed, and, overcoming the laws of mathematics in its zealous pursuit, was "totally 150 percent in the tank for the Democratic candidate." [WP]