The Iseman Cometh, The Iseman Goeth

At the end of December last year, Emptywheel reported that noted high powered Washington lobbyist Miss Vicki Iseman had filed a defamation suit against the New York Times. At issue was a February 21, 2008 Times article that Iseman contended lead people to believe that she played hanky blankie with McCain; but, as EW noted at the time:

What was at issue in the article was the appearance of an affair, not an affair itself, and the beliefs of McCain staffers about that appearance of an affair.

That was exactly right then, and it is still right now and ought to be kept in mind in light of the news yesterday that Iseman’s lawsuit was dismissed:

A lobbyist’s lawsuit against The New York Times over the newspaper’s account of her ties to Senator John McCain has been settled, both sides announced on Thursday.

The suit, filed by Vicki L. Iseman, the Washington lobbyist, was settled without payment and The Times did not retract the article. In an unusual agreement, however, The Times is letting Ms. Iseman’s lawyers give their views on the suit on the paper’s Web site.

Their opinion is accompanied by a joint statement from both sides and a note to readers, which is also appearing in Friday’s edition of the newspaper.

Let me boil down to the bone what has been accomplished legally as a result of Iseman’s complaint. Not a damn thing; both parties are sticking to the same exact public positions they maintained before the meritless suit was filed, it is just that for the sake of their pocketbooks they have agreed to take the pissing match back out of the costly court litigation system. And, now that they are back into an ink fight as opposed to boxing with attorneys, let’s take a look at how Times Editor Bill Keller describes the matter in a published statement today:

What the article set out to do, and did, was to establish that Senator McCain — a man whose career was ensnared by scandal and then rebuilt on a reputation for avoiding even the appearance of impropriety — was sometimes careless of that reputation. The story reported that a senator who cast himself as the scourge of lobbyists rode on the private jets of business executives with interests before his committee, and that a senator who disdained the influence of corporate money accepted corporate money to support that very cause.

The article also reported, in that regard, that the senator’s behavior toward Ms. Iseman convinced some of his aides that his relationship with the lobbyist had become romantic; that the aides warned the senator this could endanger his reputation; and that they set out to limit Ms. Iseman’s access to the senator. Our reporting was accurate.

Yep. The Times, in the joint spirit of both plaintiff and defendant wanting to get the heck out of court, also published a self serving piece from Iseman’s lawyers, Rod Smolla and Coleman Allen (of the ridiculously named firm of Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen. What, couldn’t they just be QuadrAllen or something?).

So, this suit has been conclusively established to have been a big bunch of nothing, not that such wasn’t patently obvious from the get go. And nobody has put a dent in John Weaver’s proposition that it was bad optics for McCain to be seen playing hanky blankie with Vicky Iseman, even if that was all it was. Now I don’t know the history of all those Allen boys, but Rod Smolla has a bit of a reputation for being very dogged on First Amendment plaintiff’s cases and for persevering against odds to victory. But here, even Smolla knew this complaint was hopeless garbage that had to be bailed from fast.

The real question here is what real end was serviced by the imposition of this meritless and hopeless lawsuit by Iseman and her attorneys? It is impossible to see anything of material gain they netted out of the suit; they were complaining in the press before the suit, and they have been reduced to that after the suit. Was John McCain just that hard up to try to retaliate against John Weaver? Was there some other sub-surface purpose?

28 replies
  1. JimWhite says:

    I think the suit was merely meant to provide some smelling salts for those who went to the fainting couch over the Times’ rude treatment of McCain. The only thing I find surprising is that it took this long for it to go away. After Nov. 4, it became irrelevant and merely generated fees for the attorneys. Did they send a bill, bill, bill and bill?

  2. freepatriot says:

    Was there some other sub-surface purpose?

    it’s all kabuki to repuglitards

    btw, it’s off-topic, but did anybody hear that Saturn died, and Pontiac is being folded into Buick ???

    I wonder if there will ever be a blogger who explains what’s going on in Detroit …

    it may be hard to believe now, but there was once a day when I wondered why I subscribed to ew at DKos

    then it would hit me, the novacula treason …

  3. BayStateLibrul says:

    I put this defamation lawsuit in the same class as Clemens: fucking
    useless, waste of money, frivolous, and self-serving…

  4. freepatriot says:

    there is an angle of this story that you missed

    for all the repuglitards’ hatred of trial lawyers, they sure give the trial lawyers a lot of business

    whereas my hatred of lawyers is honest and not hypocritical at all, cuz it comes from Marx, or shakespear, or something like that …


  5. Phoenix Woman says:

    The purpose was simple: It was to intimidate the mainstream corporate press into going easy on McCain. And it worked beautifully.

    No coverage of his status as a Reverse Ace. No coverage of his allegedly calling his wife a trollop and c–t in front of several local Arizona reporters. No delving into exactly what Cindy McCain would have to do as a contestant for the title of “Miss Buffalo Chip” (and you know full well that if Michelle Obama was in that situation, the words “bite the weenie” would be forever burned onto her metaphorical forehead by the traditional media). And most especially, no further examination of the role played by lobbyists in running McCain and his campaign.

    Now that you know the suit’s purpose, you also know why it was dropped: Because it wasn’t needed any more. Of course, for form’s sake, they had to let the suit run past the end of the campaign itself, or it would be a tad too obvious why it was dropped.

    • bmaz says:

      That is really not the case though. The election had been over for nearly two months when the complaint was filed; McCain and his wife were long gone from interest. It wasn’t that

  6. BayStateLibrul says:

    Is this a first in legal history?

    The settlement is a big fat Letter to the Editor?

    “We let Ms. Iseman’s lawyers have their say in a commentary on the Web, with a response from Bill Keller. Why? Because that’s what we do. We let people we write about have their say.”

    – Dean Baquet

  7. BayStateLibrul says:


    Bmaz, you gotta live blog the Bondsie Trial…

    Where your trainer and drug dealer goes to jail for you…

    Anderson goes to jail for BB
    Scooter almost goes to jail for Cheney.
    McNamee does not go to jail for Clemens.

    • freepatriot says:

      after I resisted posting a quip about The Meaning of Life part V in the thread about Gunnar’s transplant, you gotta go an do that to me ???

      and then I was gonna make a correction to my comment @ 2, reporting that Saturn isn’t dead, it’s just pinning for the fjords …

      but you had to go an do that

      so I can’t do it now

      you ruined it for me


      we’re still trashin the place, right, the boss ain’t back yet, is she ??? (cuz I haven’t zeroxed my butt yet …) get yer copies done soon

  8. Peterr says:


    I hear from certain folks in Arizona who are quite familiar with McCain’s long history . . . cough, cough . . . that he is a bit sensitive about his reputation.

    I can picture the exchange on the bus . . .

    Adviser: “Did you read that crap in the NYT about you and Iseman?”
    McCain: “Yeah — it’s crap all right.”

    Adviser: “Boy, if they’d said that about me, I’d be angry — I’d be tearing them a new one, siccing my lawyers on them, the whole nine yards.”
    McCain: “I don’t know . . . might be messy at a critical time in the campaign.”

    Adviser: “Maybe you’re right. Still, it seems pretty cowardly NOT to hit back.”
    McCain: “Cowardly? OK, you’ve convinced me. Where my rolodex? (turns to a minion with a phone) Get me Allen. Or maybe Allen. But if neither of them is in, I’ll talk to Allen.”

  9. JohnnyTable70 says:

    Discovery probably caused Iseman to fold. Not only would she have had to answer questions about whether or not she was sleeping with McCain, but he would have been forced to answer those questions and potentially others about his supposed infidelities.

    • SaltinWound says:

      That was what she knew going in and she still filed the suit. Why, if not to get back at McCain or to get him to give her something to keep quiet?

  10. BoxTurtle says:

    Perhaps the purpose of the suit was to protect McCain from the wrath of the Beer Goddess.

    “See, cunhoney, there’s nothing to it. Vicky is suing to force them to retract. Now send that nasty divorce lawyer away”.

    Boxturtle (Either that, or it could just be a Vicky Hissy Fit)

    • freepatriot says:

      to the initiated, kabuki has many levels and many meanings

      to the rest of us, it’s just a dull play without scenery

      the repuglitards make their own “reality”

      we ain’t the target audience for this act

      • BoxTurtle says:

        You’re assuming that this kabuki is political. I think it’s personal, I’m just not seeing any political gains for anybody. Except maybe the Times will sell a few more papers today.

        Boxturtle (Or perhaps its a bright shiny object to distract us from something else)

  11. BoxTurtle says:

    OT: Faux news is running a banner that the Ill gov has called on Burris to resign. No linky yet.

    Boxturtle (Prolly shouldn’t post links to Faux here anyway)

  12. maeme says:

    February 27, 2008
    by Daniel Hopsicker

    The lavishly-furnished custom Boeing 727 airliner (727PX) which ferried Senator John McCain on four occasions during his Presidential run in 2000 also flew Saudi Royals out of the U.S. right after 9/11, carrying an entourage of Saudi Royals from Las Vegas to London six days after the 9/11 attack in a controversial operation later scrutinized by the 9/11 Commission.

    The 727 figures in the current tempest over his relationship with female lobbyist Vicki Iseman, who provided and flew with McCain on the plane.

    With hundreds of air charter companies and airliners to choose from, the Saudis chose a company that owns “Worship Ministries” and Christian Network, Inc., turning to Paxson Communications, a “Christian broadcaster” which owned the plane, to make its corporate jet available to spirit the Saudi princes and their entourage out of the U.S. six days after 9/11.

    The Saudi Royal party made good their escape from Las Vegas on an airliner sporting a Christian symbol of peace, a dove, on it’s tail, an intriguing detail and compelling human interest story—Muslims flying Air Jesus—that has to date been reported nowhere but in the MadCowMorningNews.

  13. QuickSilver says:

    I think this is pretty rich, from James Rainey of the LA Times:

    Nothing in the intervening year since its publication changes the fact that the Times’ story about McCain and Iseman contained an essential flaw: It overreached for a story ripe with sex and thereby distracted from a much more important story about influence.

    And just how did Sam Zell’s newspaper report on John McCain’s influence? Was that the same Sam Zell who invested considerable resources in trying to track down rumors of Obama’s infidelity (sez the rumor)?

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