Since I was off on Monday, I didn't get the chance to write anything about the continuing assault on the New York Times for its article last week about John McCain. The News Flash is this: the story is still getting acidic reviews.
It was one thing to have Pat Buchanan, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Neal Boortz and others blasting the New York Times story that did its best to hint at a romantic relationship between lobbyist Vickie Iseman and McCain back in the late 1990's.
Even the New York Times Ombudsman, Clark Hoyt lit into his newspaper in his regular column on Sunday, saying "it offered readers no proof that McCain and Iseman had a romance.
"If a newspaper is going to suggest an improper sexual affair, whether editors think that is the central point or not, it owes readers more proof than The Times was able to provide," wrote Hoyt.
It didn't end there.
Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz piled on Monday in his own column, writing that "with McCain and Iseman both denying an inappropriate relationship, a rough consensus is emerging among journalists that the Times story was fatally flawed."
Kurtz got right to the point of what I wrote about last week. That sometimes as a journalist, you work your tail off on a story, you know that you are onto something good. But you cannot prove what you know, or what you think you know.
"The hardest thing in journalism is to spend months on a story and then admit you haven't got the goods. There is, instead, a tendency to dress the thing up with fine writing and larger themes in an effort to demonstrate that it's not just about sex, when of course that is the only element most readers -- and the rest of the media -- will focus on," Kurtz wrote.
Kurtz noted that New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller seemed genuinely surprised by the outburst of criticism directed at his paper's story, saying that readers had missed the larger point of the story about McCain's links to lobbyists.
Well, I guess when you lead off a story by telling people that McCain was running around with a 30-something lobbyist and then you don't really prove that, you shouldn't be shocked that readers are unhappy.
I still believe one thing though. If somewhere down the line this year, a photo of McCain, with Iseman sitting in his lap, on a boat called "Monkey Business" surfaces, then all hell will break loose (my apologies to Donna Rice and Gary Hart on that one.)
At least there was proof in that 1984 case. It was one thing when Gary Hart all but dared the media to see if he was running around. It was another to actually catch him.