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Senator John McCain is on the defensive after The New York Times reported rumors that the Republican candidate had a close and possibly romantic relationship with a lobbyist eight years ago.

According to The Times, members of McCain’s presidential campaign in 2000 noticed a close relationship between telecommunications lobbyist Vicki Iseman and McCain. “Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself—instructing staff members to block the woman's access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity,” reported The Times. Both McCain and Iseman deny any romantic relationship.

McCain, whose presidential bid is based on high-ethical standards, dismissed the report. “He has never violated the public trust, never done favors for special interests or lobbyists, and he will not allow a smear campaign to distract from the issues at stake in this election,” his campaign responded in a statement issued by its communications director, Jill Hazelbaker.

Rumors in any workplace, high profile or not, can stir up trouble. Knowing how to respond to a rumor can relieve some stress and maybe even save your job. Each situation is different, and some may require more serious attention, but if talk around the water cooler is suddenly aimed at you, there some things to keep in mind.

Career experts say people need to stand up for themselves if there is no truth to what is being said. If the rumors are untrue, be strong and show that there is no basis to support them, says Harriet Katz, a career counselor in New York City. She also says that by not participating in or contributing to rumors in the office, people could stop the ‘mill’ all together. “When you break away from the herd, the rumor mill will have no more juice to run on.”

Some situations may require more than just a personal defense. Catherine Amory, the Associate Director of Career Services at Northeastern University, says to take a deep breath and speak with a supervisor. “Any good supervisor will listen to what you are saying and then get to the bottom of the situation.”

And while rumors can be hurtful, some “rumors” are actually based in truth. In this type of situation, employees should again consult with a supervisor or human resources professional. According to Amory, employers take honesty very seriously and if an employee is caught in a lie, that person may be blackballed forever by the company. However, if someone immediately comes clean and owns up to what he or she has done, that person may be acknowledged for taking responsibility. “People need to own up to their actions," says Amory. “If you get fired, you get fired, but there is no better redemption than telling the truth.”