When even the stooge ombudsman says you’ve dropped the ball, you’ve dropped the ball. Keller continues to push the idiotic line that the story wasn’t about sex, it was about the appearance of sex, which was enough to allegedly alarm two disgruntled former McCain aides, which in turn was enough to warrant a NYT bombshell with four reporters on the byline because, after all, John McCain has always been a stickler about appearances of impropriety. Take it away, stooge:

[I]n the absence of a smoking gun, I asked Keller why he decided to run what he had.

“If the point of the story was to allege that McCain had an affair with a lobbyist, we’d have owed readers more compelling evidence than the conviction of senior staff members,” he replied. “But that was not the point of the story. The point of the story was that he behaved in such a way that his close aides felt the relationship constituted reckless behavior and feared it would ruin his career.”

I think that ignores the scarlet elephant in the room. A newspaper cannot begin a story about the all-but-certain Republican presidential nominee with the suggestion of an extramarital affair with an attractive lobbyist 31 years his junior and expect readers to focus on anything other than what most of them did. And 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.

The stakes are just too big.