Vicki Iseman, who was romantically linked to Senator John McCain by a February 21, 2008 New York Times article, spoke to Maggie Rodriguez of CBS' The Early Show this morning. During their brief interview, Iseman denied having any romantic entanglements with the Arizona Senator. Iseman believes that rather, this was the impression left by John Weaver, a former McCain strategist, who is the only named source in the original article that alludes to an inappropriate relationship. Whether Weaver stipulated to the Times that the "inappropriateness" of the relationship had anything to do with an affair is a matter of debate. Iseman, in today's interview, captures Weaver as having reacted poorly to a speech:
ISEMAN: This is a political guy, not a staff guy on the Hill, but a political guy who decided that, you know, his ego, I guess, had been bruised somewhat and that he was going to very aggressively and assertively make a point to me that my opinion was something that I should not share with the Senator, whether he asked for it or not.
Weaver, who responded to the article last year, at that time also denied that his concern was romantic in nature:
The New York Times asked for a formal interview and I said no and asked for written questions. The Times knew of my meeting with Ms. Iseman, from sources they didn't identify to me, and asked me about that meeting. I did not inform Senator McCain that I asked for a meeting with Ms. Iseman.
Her comments, which had gotten back to some of us, that she had strong ties to the Commerce Committee and his staff were wrong and harmful and I so informed her and asked her to stop with these comments and to not be involved in the campaign. Nothing more and nothing less.
From the day I first approached John about running for President in 1997 and through today, I have always wanted John to be president. The country needs him at this perilous time. From the moment I left the campaign until today, not one day -- not one --has gone by that I haven't reactively or pro-actively talked with the campaign leadership, with state leadership about how the campaign and how to win. To suggest anything else is wrong, a lie and meant to do nothing but harm."
Iseman, in the interview, goes on to discuss the extent to which the New York Times tried to uncover a link between she and McCain. "They became so invested in this that they couldn't walk away. I can't think of any other reason why...They just could not, for some reason, walk away."
RODRIGUEZ: WHEN THE ARTICLE CAME OUT IN "THE NEW YORK TIMES," WE HEARD FROM SENATOR McCAIN, BUT WE HAVE NOT HEARD FROM VICKI ISEMAN HERE THIS MORNING FOR AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW.
ISEMAN: THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.
RODRIGUEZ: THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE. LET'S START WITH THE QUESTION THAT EVERYONE WANTS TO HEAR YOU ANSWER. DID YOU HAVE AN AFFAIR WITH SENATOR JOHN McCAIN?
ISEMAN: NO, I DID NOT. AND FOUR "NEW YORK TIMES" REPORTERS, TWO EDITORS, THE ENTIRE INSTITUTION, 200 PEOPLE THAT THEY WENT OUT AND SOUGHT TO TRY AND FIGURE OUT IF THIS WAS TRUE OR NOT, CAME BACK AND SAID THERE WAS NOTHING THERE.
RODRIGUEZ: SO WAS IT ANYTHING IN YOUR BEHAVIOR TOWARDS THEM THAT COULD HAVE GIVEN PEOPLE THAT IMPRESSION?
ISEMAN: NO. THIS ALL WENT BACK TO ONE SINGULAR PERSON, A POLITICAL OPERATIVE WHO HAD LEFT THE SENATOR'S CAMPAIGN UNDER ACRIMONIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES, AND THIS IS WHERE EVERYTHING LED BACK TO HIM.
RODRIGUEZ: YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT JOHN WEAVER WHO IS THE ONLY SOURCE THAT IS NAMED IN THAT "NEW YORK TIMES" ARTICLE. LET'S TALK ABOUT THE TIME THAT YOU HAD CLOSE CONTACT. YOU SAY IT'S THE ONLY TIME YOU HAD CLOSE CONTACT WITH SENATOR McCAIN. YOU WERE ON A PLANE FLYING BACK FROM AN EVENT WITH JOHN WEAVER AND SENATOR McCAIN. AFTER THAT TRIP, JOHN WEAVER SAYS THAT HE CALLED A MEETING WITH YOU TO TELL YOU TO STAY AWAY FROM THE SENATOR. IS THAT TRUE?
ISEMAN: JOHN WEAVER DID ASK ME TO VISIT WITH HIM FOR COFFEE, WHICH I DID. AND WHEN I MET WITH HIM, WE SAT DOWN, AND HE SAID HE HAD TAKEN UMBRAGE WITH A CONVERSATION,
BRIEF WORDS, THAT I HAD WITH SENATOR McCAIN ABOUT THE FACT THAT SENATOR McCAIN JUST ASKED, "WHAT DID YOU THINK OF MY SPEECH?" JOHN WEAVER WAS THERE. AN I SAID, "YOU KNOW, I LIKE IT WHEN YOU INTERACT WITH THE AUDIENCE BETTER." AND APPARENTLY I DON'T KNOW IF JOHN WEAVER HAD WRITTEN THE SPEECH. I DON'T KNOW WHAT THE CIRCUMSTANCES WERE. BUT JOHN WEAVER TOOK OFFENSE AT THAT AND DECIDED HE'D SIT ME DOWN. AND SOMETIMES IT'S A SITUATION, THIS IS A POLITICAL GUY, NOT A STAFF GUY ON THE HILL, BUT A
POLITICAL GUY WHO DECIDED THAT, YOU KNOW, HIS EGO, I GUESS, HAD BEEN BRUISED SOMEWHAT AND THAT HE WAS GOING VERY AGGRESSIVELY AND ASSERTIVELY MAKE A POINT TO ME THAT MY OPINION WAS SOMETHING THAT I SHOULD NOT SHARE WITH THE SENATOR, WHETHER HE ASKED FOR IT OR NOT.
RODRIGUEZ: SO UP UNTIL THAT TIME, YOU ONLY SAW THE SENATOR OCCASIONALLY AS A LOBBYIST. YOU HAD THAT ONE TRIP WITH HIM AFTER WHICH YOU HAD THAT MEETING WITH JOHN WEAVER. HE TOLD YOU -- HE SCOLDED YOU FOR CRITICIZING THE SPEECH, BUT THAT WAS IT? HE NEVER SAID, STAY AWAY FROM THE SENATOR? YOU'RE GETTING TOO CLOSE TO HIM?
ISEMAN: THAT WAS IT. TO BE VERY CLEAR, I WAS A SUPPORTER OF SENATOR McCAIN'S BACK IN 2000. I WANTED HIM TO WIN. I THOUGHT A LOT OF HIM. I DEBATED PEOPLE ON THE FACT THAT I THOUGHT HE SHOULD BE PRESIDENT. SO I WAS A SUPPORTER. I MEAN, THAT WAS VERY CLEAR.
BUT AS FAR AS JOHN WEAVER OR ANYBODY ELSE, AGAIN, ALL ROADS GO BACK TO HIM. ANY ASSERTIONS THAT THERE IS ANYTHING INAPPROPRIATE ETHICALLY OR, YOU KNOW, PROFESSIONALLY OR PERSONALLY ARE JUST NOT TRUE.
RODRIGUEZ: ALL RIGHT. YOU BELIEVE THAT JOHN WEAVER GOES TO "THE NEW YORK TIMES." THEY START TO INVESTIGATE THIS. THEY CALL YOU. THEY SEND YOU E-MAILS, AND YOU TELL THEM IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, SEND THEM TO ME BY E-MAIL.
ISEMAN: I DID. BUT THAT WAS AFTER THEY SHOWED UP AT MY HOUSE AND AFTER THEY STARTED CALLING PEOPLE IN MY OFFICE, ASKING SPECIFICALLY IF I HAD AN AFFAIR WITH SENATOR
McCAIN. IT WAS UNBELIEVABLE. I MEAN, THEY'RE CALLING PEOPLE WHO I HADN'T SEEN IN 15 YEARS. THEY WERE FINDING NAMES OF PEOPLE WHO USED TO LIVE WITH ME OUT OF COLLEGE FROM MY UTILITY BILLS. THEY WERE CALLING FRIENDS AND FAMILY AND COLLEAGUES AND FORMER STAFFERS. IT WAS JUST PEOPLE I HAD HIRED AND FIRED AT MY FIRM. IT WAS NUTS. IT WAS UNBELIEVABLE.
RODRIGUEZ: YOU RESPOND TO THEIR QUESTIONS VIA E-MAIL. THEY PRINT THE STORY. HOW DOES YOUR LIFE CHANGE AT THAT POINT?
ISEMAN: YOU KNOW, IT S -- IT WAS STUNNING. IT WAS ABSOLUTELY STUNNING. FOUR CAMERA CREWS SHOW UP AT MY NIECE AND NEPHEW'S SCHOOL IN RURAL WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA. PEOPLE ARE CALLING MY GRANDMOTHER TO SAY, AREN'T YOU EMBARRASSED THAT YOUR DAUGHTER ISN'T SPEAKING OUT? I DIDN'T WANT TO SPEAK OUT. I DIDN'T WANT TO BE PART OF THIS CAMPAIGN. I MEAN, I BELIEVE IN THE PROCESS. THIS IS WHY I'M IN THIS WORLD. AND IT WAS CRAZY. PEOPLE WOULD SAY TO ME, I'M NOT GETTING IN AN ELEVATOR WITH YOU. A WOMAN WALKED UP TO ME ON AN AIRPLANE AND SAID, "YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELF FOR WHAT YOU DID."
RODRIGUEZ: SO EVERYBODY BELIEVED YOU HAD AN AFFAIR WH HIM EVEN THOUGH THE ARCLE, ACCORDING TO "THE TIMES," DIDN'T MEAN TO APPLY THAT AND PROVE THAT? ALL OF A SUDDEN YOU WERE "THAT GIRL"?
ISEMAN: "THE TIMES DEVELOPED A CARICATURE OF ME THEY KNEW WAS NOT TRUE. THEY PUT A PHOTOGRAPH OF ME IN A GOLD DRESS. THEY TALKED ABOUT THE FACT THAT I HAD SHOWED UP AT EVENTS WITH THE SENATOR. THE IMPLICATION WAS MANY. YOU JUST CAN'T DO THIS. YOU PRACTICALLY CAN'T DO THIS. I CANNOT PICK HIM UP, SHOW UP AT EVENTS, BE AT HIS ARM, HAVE TO BE PULLED AWAY FROM HIM. THIS JUST DOESN'T HAPPEN. BY THE WAY, HE WAS RUNNING FOR
PRESIDENT. HE WASN'T EVEN IN D.C. DURING THE TIME THEY SAID THIS WAS HAPPENING.
RODRIGUEZ: YOU SUE "THE NEW YORK TIMES." THEY PRINTED A NOTE TO THE READERS SAYING WE NEVER INTENDED TO IMPLY SHE WAS HAVING AN AFFAIR WITH HIM. WHERE DO YOU THINK THEY WENT WRONG? THEY HAVE SOURCES AND THEY DID TRY TO CONTACT YOU. WHERE DO YOU THINK "THE NEW YORK TIMES" FAILED HERE?
ISEMAN: I THINK THEY BECAME SO INVESTED IN THIS -- I BELIEVE THEY WOULD HAVE HAD TO BELIEVED IN THE BEGINNING THAT THIS WAS TRUE. AND THEY BECAME SO INVESTED, THEY ENDED UP SENDING PEOPLE ACROSS THE COUNTRY THAT I KNOW OF TO L.A., AT LEAST, THREE TIMES TO RURAL MISSISSIPPI TO FIND A YOUNG WOMAN WHO HAD WORKED WITH ME TEN YEARS AGO THAT WASN'T RETURNING THEIR CALLS. THEY BECAME SO INVESTED IN THIS THAT THEY COULDN'T WALK AWAY. I CAN'T THINK OF ANY OTHER REASON WHY THAN, YOU KNOW, AGAIN, AT LEAST TWO OF THESE REPORTERS I HAD RESPECTED IN THE PAST. AND THIS WAS JUST OUT OF
CONTROL. THEY JUST COULD NOT, FOR SOME REASON, WALK AWAY.
RODRIGUEZ: ALL RIGHT. VICKI ISEMAN, THANKS FOR SHARING YOUR STORY THIS MORNING.
ISEMAN: THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
RODRIGUEZ: APPRECIATE IT.
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