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NY Times 'hits' McCain over melanoma 'secrecy'
Ron Brynaert
Published: Saturday March 8, 2008

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On Saturday night, The Drudge Report jumped upon an article posted at the New York Times website slated for Sunday's paper entitled "On the Campaign Trail, Few Mentions of McCain’s Bout With Melanoma."

"Along with his signature bright white hair, the most striking aspects of Senator John McCain’s physical appearance are his puffy left cheek and the scar that runs down the back of his neck," writes Lawrence K. Altman M.D. in Sunday's Times. "The marks are cosmetic reminders of the melanoma surgery he underwent in August 2000. Mr. McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, sometimes tells audiences that he has 'more scars than Frankenstein.'"

The paper notes that McCain's "operation was performed mainly to determine whether the melanoma, a potentially fatal form of skin cancer, had spread from his left temple to a key lymph node in his neck; a preliminary pathology test at the time showed that it had not."

"In 1999, during Mr. McCain’s first race for president, he gave the public an extraordinary look at his medical history — 1,500 pages of medical and psychiatric records that were amassed as part of a United States Navy project to gauge the health of former prisoners of war," Altman writes. "This reporter, who is a physician, interviewed the senator’s doctors in 1999 with his permission."

Altman complains that now it's a different matter.

"But this time around, Mr. McCain has yet to make his full medical records or his physicians available to reporters," writes Altman. "At least three times since March 2007, campaign officials have told The New York Times that they would provide the detailed information about his current state of health, but they have not done so. The campaign now says it expects to release the information in April."

He adds, "So Mr. McCain’s prognosis for the recurrence of melanoma can be gauged only by talking to experts not connected with his case. Those experts say his prospects appear favorable."

William Galston, an elections expert at the Brookings Institution, recently quipped to the Times Online, "McCain is the quintessential ‘white’ candidate – so white that he gets melanoma if he stays in the sun."

Blogger Ed Driscoll complains about the "New York Times Hit On McCain," and adds that "in 2004, there were even fewer mentions--especially by the Times--of the cancer scare suffered by" Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

"The New York Times' campaign against Republican nominee John McCain is getting into full swing, but it has a certain wistful quality. Like this headline... If only the voters cared more about melanoma!" the Powerline blog mocks, before deciding that "there doesn't seem to be much of a story here."

From the left, Andy Ostroy asked at his blog on Friday, "Do we not have the right to know more about the seriousness of this, and perhaps other, health conditions of what would be a 72-year-old president?"

According to a press release, "Lawrence K. Altman, M.D., is one of the few full-fledged medical doctors working as a full-time daily newspaper reporter. He has been a member of The New York Times science news staff since 1969."

Altman's biography adds that he "holds medical licenses in the states of Washington, California and New York, is a clinical professor at the New York University Medical School. He is a Master of the American College of Physicians, a Fellow of the American College of Epidemiology and the New York Academy of Medicine and a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences."

The Times was recently criticized by Republicans, and even some Democrats, for reporting on rumors that McCain was romantically involved with a lobbyist, and the story was even used by the Republican presidential candidate's campaign to garner donations.

The fundraising letter read, "Well, here we go. We could expect attacks were coming; as soon as John McCain appeared to be locking up the Republican nomination, the liberal establishment and their allies at the New York Times have gone on the attack. Today’s front-page New York Times story is particularly disgusting - an un-sourced hit-and-run smear campaign designed to distract from the issues at stake in this election. With John McCain leading a number of general-election polls against Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the New York Times knew the time to attack was now, and they did. We will not allow their scurrilous attack against a great American hero to stand."

On Friday, McCain had a heated exchange with another Times reporter on his campaign plane, as wide-eyed reporters watched, over a meeting he had with then-presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004 about becoming the Democrat's running mate. The candidate appeared to grow agitated, although he never raised his voice. Fox News broadcast video of the exchange.