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Michael Phelan
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Vicki Iseman's $27 Million Defamation Case Settles for Zero Dollars and No Retraction

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Vicki Iseman, the lobbyist whom the New York Times reported was suspected by John McCain’s staff in 1999 of having a romantic affair with Senatory McCain, sued the New York Times for defamation. The Complaint was filed December 30, 2008 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Richmond Division, and can be viewd by clicking "defamation" in the previous sentence. Iseman sued The New York Times Company, its executive editor, an editor, and several reporters for Twenty Seven Million Dollars, and her Complaint was accompanied by much publicity. According to a New York Times article last week, the lawsuit was settled without any monetary payment to Iseman or a retraction of the allegedly defamatory article by the New York Times. Click "defamatory" in the preceding sentence to read the NYT’s account of the settlement. So what did Ms. Iseman get for settling her $27 million complaint? The Times agreed to publish a joint statement, a Note to Readers, and to let Ms. Iseman’s lawyers publish their views on the NYT’s website. Click to read the statement from Iseman’s lawyers. The statement quotes Shakespeare but does not cite any monetary consideration for the settlement. That’s because there was none.

The Times continues to maintain that the original article was an accurate examination of the record of Mr. McCain, then the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, as an ethics reformer who was at times blind to potential conflicts of interest; the section of the article referring to Ms. Iseman focused on the fact that some top McCain advisers had confronted the senator with their concerns that the relationship had become romantic. To resolve the lawsuit, Ms. Iseman accepted the NYT’s explanation, which it agreed to publish in a Note to Readers. The Times maintains that its article did not state, nor did it intend to conclude, that the parties engaged in an affair or any type of unethical relationship. The point of the original article, according to The Times, was that Mr. McCain had a cavalier attitude toward protecting his reputation as an ethics reformer. In its Response to the statement from Iseman’s lawyers, the Times aggessively states that the case "settled without money changing hands, and without The Times backing away from the story."