Sen. John McCain paused in his presidential campaign Thursday morning to deny reports that he may have had an inappropriate relationship with a female lobbyist. The allegations arose in a story in The New York Times.
"I'm very disappointed in the article. It's not true," McCain said in Toledo, Ohio.
Speaking at a news conference in which he was accompanied by his wife, Cindy, McCain said that the woman in question, lobbyist Vicki Iseman, is a friend.
But the Times story describes aides urging McCain and Iseman to stay away from each other during McCain's failed 2000 bid for the White House.
The Arizona Republican denied that account when asked if any of his campaign staff had been concerned about his relationship with Iseman.
"If they were, they didn't communicate that to me," McCain said.
As a lobbyist, Iseman represented commercial interests that had business before the Senate Commerce Committee, of which McCain was a member.
But the senator insisted Thursday that his work on the committee was never influenced by Iseman, or any other lobbyists.
"I made those decisions on the basis of what I thought was in the best interests of the American citizen," McCain said.
Asked if he sought to have the newspaper bury the story, McCain said he had not. But he acknowledged that his campaign staff had been in touch with Times reporters about the story.
"For months, The New York Times has submitted questions and we have answered them fully and exhaustively," McCain said. "And unfortunately, many of those answers were not included in the rather long piece in The New York Times."
McCain, who is now closing in on the Republican nomination, said that he will not dwell on the issue. Instead, he said, he will focus on challenges that face the country, such as the economy and national security.