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New York Times Hurt
McCain Helped by NYT Attack

By Rick Pearcey

Feb. 21, 2008 -- Sen. John McCain may want to thank the New York Times for its attack story “For McCain, Self-Confidence on Ethics Poses Its Own Risk.” The story hit the net last night and the papers today.

I have read the Times report and watched coverage of this story by Keith Olbermann on MSNBC, as well as the response of McCain lawyer Bob Bennett on Hannity & Colmes. The explosive charge of a possible romantic relationship between McCain and lobbyist Vicki Iseman is not substantiated, in my view.

This does not mean it didn’t happen. It does mean the Times has taken an unfair swipe at McCain and thereby justly suffers another blow to its credibility.      

Here are two initial conclusions, based on the current record as reported by the NYT: 

1. McCain is helped, not hurt, by this story.
2. The New York Times is hurt, not helped, by this story.

McCain during this morning’s press conference from Toledo, Ohio, was able to show himself as personable, cool under fire, and a man willing to step up and take the heat of what appears to be an unfair attack. His public handling of this story thus far has been presidential.

This episode may well give his campaign a boost to gain momentum in the race with Obama (or, less likely, Clinton). McCain as victim of an arrogant media elite is something many Americans can appreciate. Nevertheless, issues related to campaign finance reform, free speech, and so on, remain significant hurdles to overcome if he is to energize the conservative base of the GOP.

The Times story, on other hand, reinforces concerns about media bias, questionable reporting methods, political timing, and market-driven journalism.

In such a climate, it is not surprising that the Times is cutting staff and losing revenue from ads and circulation. “Adjusting for the extra week in 2006’s fiscal calendar, revenue at the New York Times Co. fell 8.2% in December 2007, compared with December 2006,” reports DMNews just two days ago. “Ad revenues for the period fell 12%, and circulation revenues were down 0.6%.” 

Radio talk show host Mark Levin, no friend of the McCain candidacy, enjoys tossing out creative nicknames for personalities and media organizations. Thus: the “New York Slimes.” Thus: The latest Times story is “the premium example of yellow journalism.”

Many more reports such as this attack on McCain and that “slimes” moniker may never wash away.

Facts change perception, and facts can change this perception. The Times should go out and find some.

Comment on "McCain Helped by NYT Attack" here. 
Read the NYT story here.

Rick Pearcey is editor and publisher of The Pearcey Report.

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