Lobbyist sues New York Times over McCain article

NEW YORK, Dec 30 (Reuters) - A Washington lobbyist on Tuesday sued The New York Times NYT.N for publishing an article that she says suggests she once had a romantic relationship with 2008 Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

The lawsuit, filed by lawyers for Vicki Iseman in a Richmond, Virginia, federal court, seeks $27 million in damages.

It claims that Iseman, a lobbyist at the firm Alcalde & Fay, was defamed by the Feb. 21 article and that she suffered damage to her reputation as well as to her emotional and mental health.

It also says that the Times implied an inappropriate relationship with the Arizona senator without having proved that one existed.

“The New York Times defendants knew they did not know -- and brazenly published anyway,” the suit says.

Iseman named the Times company, Executive Editor Bill Keller and Washington Bureau Chief Dean Baquet as defendants, as well as the reporters who wrote the story: James Rutenberg, Marilyn Thompson, Stephen Labaton and David Kirkpatrick.

Baquet declined to comment, as did Thompson, who now works at The Washington Post WPO.N. Keller, Rutenberg, Labaton and Kirkpatrick were not immediately available for comment.

“We fully stand behind the article,” Times spokeswoman Abbe Serphos said. “We continue to believe it to be true and accurate, and that we will prevail. ... It was an important piece that raised questions about a presidential contender and the perception that he had been engaged in conflicts of interest.”

The Times reported that McCain had a close relationship with telecommunications lobbyist Iseman. It said that early in McCain’s bid for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination, members of his campaign grew concerned that the relationship could harm the campaign.

McCain and Iseman have previously denied a romantic relationship. They also have denied suggestions that they had an unethical relationship.

McCain in the late 1990s was chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Iseman represented clients who had interests in matters under the committee’s jurisdiction. (Reporting by Robert MacMillan; Editing by Xavier Briand)