McCain’s former top adviser says he lied to discredit Times article

The chief strategist for Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign said Sunday night that he had lied to discredit a New York Times article reporting on McCain’s close relationship with a lobbyist, a claim that the candidate and the campaign They attacked deep. At the time.

Steve Schmidt’s statement, which he posted in a late-night Substack post, was a remarkable turnaround for a former senior assistant who once praised Mr. McCain as “the greatest man I have ever known.”

More than 14 years after The Times article appeared and four years after the Republican senator’s death, Schmidt unleashed a furious personal attack on the credibility of McCain and his family.

“Immediately after the story was published, John and Cindy McCain lied to the American people,” Schmidt wrote, adding, “Ultimately, John McCain’s lie became mine.”

Defending his long silence on the matter, Schmidt said in his post that he “didn’t want to do anything to compromise John McCain’s honor.” Her post then questioned McCain’s judgment in choosing relatively unknown Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as her running mate and accused McCain of cowering before her, “terrified of the creature he created.” he wrote.

In an interview Monday, Schmidt said he was motivated to speak out now in part because he felt he had been unfairly associated for nearly 15 years with McCain’s choice of Palin, which he called “a burden.”

Schmidt also accused McCain, a self-proclaimed maverick who fought his own party leaders as he pushed for tighter restrictions on campaign finance and ethics rules around political activities such as lobbying, of lying about an aspect of the article that angered particularly senators.

The article, published on February 21, 2008, reported that several people involved in McCain’s first presidential campaign, in 2000, worried that he and lobbyist Vicki Iseman were having a romantic relationship. It was an explosive and potentially damaging statement for a presidential candidate who positioned himself as a corruption fighter committed to exposing Washington’s self-dealing ways.

The day after the article was published, Mr. McCain appeared with his wife, Cindy, at a press conference and declared that the article was wrong. “I am very disappointed in the New York Times article. It’s not true,” he said.

Mr. McCain continued to deny until his death that he had a romantic relationship with Ms. Iseman. Schmidt, however, said that McCain had privately admitted an affair to him after The Times published his article. “John McCain told me the truth backstage at an event in Ohio,” he wrote.

Ms. Iseman sued The Times, demanding that it publish a retraction of the article on its front page. Less than three months after she filed the lawsuit, she withdrew it. The Times added a note to readers at the end of the article saying that it “did not claim, and The Times did not intend to conclude, that Ms. Iseman had had a romantic affair with Senator McCain or an unethical relationship on behalf of of its clients in violation of the public trust.

Mr. Schmidt did not name Ms. Iseman in his Substack post, although he made several references to private phone calls he had with a “lobbyist” that he describes in derogatory terms.

Ms. Iseman did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

A Times spokeswoman, Danielle Rhoades Ha, said the paper stood by the article. “We were confident in the accuracy of our reports in 2008, and we continue to be.”

McCain’s daughter Meghan, a conservative author and former co-host of “The View,” said her family had no comment Monday.

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