(CNN) -- Republican presidential front-runner John McCain on Thursday denied a report in The New York Times that he had a close relationship with a female lobbyist.
Sen. John McCain, with his wife, Cindy, at his side, said The New York Times report is "not true."
"It's not true," the Arizona senator told reporters.
Many CNN.com readers jumped to McCain's defense, calling the story "a hit job" and "a smear campaign."
Some readers, including Jim Ferguson of Yonkers, New York, questioned the timing of the report.
"I find it interesting that the New York Times endorsed McCain a short while ago, given that they were likely sitting on this story," he wrote.
Others said the story raised serious concerns about McCain's ethics and character.
Christopher Hughey of Belmont, Massachusetts, called it "typical Washington hypocrisy at work yet again! McCain is no different from all the other thieves," he wrote. "And notice how this media darling suddenly casts himself as media victim? Yeah, right."
But many readers said the story was too old to have any relevance in the presidential race.
The following is a sampling of e-mails from CNN.com readers. Some have been edited for length or clarity:
Antoine Hage of Camarillo, California
"I think McCain is a great man, and because of that many will be trying to undermine his ability to lead this country to victory from now until the November elections, however I think McCain will stand his ground and rise up from the ashes again, like he always does. Go McCain 08!"
Daniel Schlafer of Byron, Georgia
"As cynical as it may sound, this story has no downside for Senator McCain. Since he, Cindy, and Vicki [Iseman, the lobbyist] have denied it. It plants the impression that he is still a 'youthful guy,' and he gets to earn the respect of conservatives. His 'war' declaration against the New York Times, was just what they wanted to hear from the paper that had endorsed him."
Michael Hill of Chicago, Illinois
"It's pathetic the lengths the New York Times will go to push their own agenda. When the truth comes out that a war hero has been unjustifiably smeared, all the Times will have accomplished is to unify the Republican Party around McCain against the leftist rhetoric of the NYT. Ironic isn't it."
David Beverage of Doylestown, Pennsylvania
"Where there's smoke, there's fire. The New York Times is not the National Enquirer. ... There must be some validity to this story."
Merry Dee of Marietta, Georgia
"I truly do not believe that what goes on in McCain's marriage or bedroom has anything to do with his ability to lead the country. What is much more concerning to me is the fact that he is so comfortable accepting corporate jet flights and the like. Perks like that come at a very high price."
Nick Mancini of West Hills, California
"First of all, I am planning on voting for Obama this year. Regarding the McCain story, unless there is undeniable proof, it's not a story. The NYT better come up with something more than what they have released so far. If they do not, the reporters ought to be fired, and the newspaper should be ashamed of itself for such a cheap shot. They will have lowered themselves to the level of tabloid journalism. No details, no pictures, no emails = no story. McCain has nothing to worry about, unless there's proof."
Vickie Short of Erlanger, Kentucky
"After the whole fiasco of a sitting president having a sexual relationship with a White House intern inside the Oval Office, it's hard to imagine that anyone really cares."
Richard Pearlman of St. Louis, Missouri
"Seems to me that the Straight Talk Express has had some personal detours along the way. He may not take the lobbyists' monies but he surely likes the fringe benefits. How can the Republican party claim to restore the integrity of the presidency with loose morals!"
Carmen Tojeiro of Miami, Florida
"Unfortunately, I believe that the timing of this article is suspect and provides a window to how truly too much power is at the media's hands."
Susana Cesped of New York, New York
"I think it's part of the process, he is doing great and of course we will always try to find 'the dark side.' but I don't care even if he slept with her because he is going to be the president of the nation and not my husband."
Andrew Wick City of Ada, Ohio
"It is stories like these, the ones with no basis, that confuse the younger population of voters. The ones who have not been exposed to years of 'dirty' politics. Smear ads, articles and speeches may seem old hat and have less of an effect on the older voter population but when the media allows itself to become anonymous sourced and without any credible supporting data we as the younger generation become sick of the process and decide to just avoid the entire process."
Kyle Scherer of Cambridge, Massachusetts
"I'm an Obama supporter, but I've always had great respect for Senator McCain. If anything, this smear campaign has forced me to rethink the many instances I've defended the Times against conservatives who claim the paper has an overt political agenda."
Jon Fishman of Minneapolis, Minnesota
"This is so much worse than the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal, for which the Republicans impeached the president. Shame on you, McCain. Do the ethical thing for a change and drop out of the race for president."
Karen Monk of Jacksonville, Florida
"I am not surprised that the New York Times would attempt to investigate any possible issues that involve McCain. I am surprised that after 4 months of investigation that the Times would publish a story that has no depth. McCain should move on and not give this any further attention."
Tara Sheridan of Berkeley, California
"I am a liberal that will vote either Clinton or Obama. That being said, I am really upset with the NYT and their tactics. This story is beyond terrible and I now have zero regard for the NYT. One thing that should not be messed with is McCain's integrity, everyone knows, even liberals, that he has high moral character. Even though I do not agree with his policies, I have a lot of respect for him."
Paul De Aguilar of Riverside, California
"Personally I feel like it is some kind of smear campaign. This supposedly took place during his 2000 presidential run, and is now finally coming about? I am not a McCain supporter, nor have I ever been. I hate this particular kind of politics, especially cause it takes away from what should be the main focus -- the race itself."
Diana Montero of Washington
"I am a liberal Democrat and an Obama supporter. John McCain is, as of thus far, running a pretty good campaign. Unless I have concrete evidence, i.e., legislation passed while Sen. McCain and the lobbyist were 'together,' pictures, video tapes, etc., I will refuse to believe these allegations. Why would they come out now anyway? Why had these allegations 'just' surfaced? Same old politics, and same dirty tricks. This is just another reason why we need new blood in D.C."
Kurt Tappe of Wilmington, Delaware
"I'm much more concerned with the corruption angle to this story than the potential sexual one. Graft is hurting this country much more than relationships are. Mr. McCain is now campaigning against Mr. Obama's promise of change, but I think moving away from the type of corruption that Mr. McCain is now linked to is exactly what we should strive for."
William Bergmann of Hollywood, California
"Just because a woman is attractive does not mean that all men will roll over for her. I'm a liberal who is more than willing to accept John McCain's word in the matter."
Michael Newman of Charleston, South Carolina
"Where was the Republican outrage when the 'Swift Boat' lies were aired on TV? What hypocrisy! My hunch is that the story will not particularly help McCain but it will hurt Hillary by reminding us all of Bill's big lies about Monica --and the folks in Washington wonder why so many of us voters are disengaged? Maybe that is the way the professional politicians want it."
Edward Pawlowski of Milwaukee, Wisconsin
"My sentiments are fairly simple.....WHO CARES!!" E-mail to a friend