“The purpose of the rumors is to get people to think more about whether or not I’m resigning than the fact that I’m announcing my candidacy on February 20,” said Gov. David Paterson in a candid one-on-one with the Amsterdam News.
The New York Times has, for the best part of two weeks, floated the promise of the publication of a story that is so scandalous that it would force the resignation of the non-elected former lieutenant governor, who stepped in to the office of governor when Eliot Spitzer got caught up in a real, grimy sexual tryst. What they had, Grey Lady rumors whispered, rivaled the sordid titillation of Client No. 9 and his black socks. There was talk of drug use and extramarital goings-on. The story was going to be big, they said.
And the people, they waited.
And they waited.
And then they waited some more.
“In spite of the fact that people talk about my poll numbers and how much money I’ve raised, somebody is going to a lot of trouble, and committing a lot of fraud, and telling a lot of lies to keep me out of the governor’s race,” snapped Paterson.
For sure, the enemies of state’s first Black, and incidentally legally blind, governor, reveled in the deliciously contemptible salaciousness of the gossip column, gotcha pseudo-journalism.
“The negative innuendo attack on Governor Paterson is being fed by stereotypes, jealousy and betrayal,” declared Marquez Claxton, activist and former City Council candidate. “The governor remains charismatic and effective at delivering his message, unless you are swayed by the biased media coverage. We are in an age when the New York Times has become more like TMZ.”
“For the last two weeks, I have been the subject of salacious rumors over and over again to the point that last weekend during the Super Bowl, three different media outlets were contacted at the same moment and told that the governor was resigning, which is an outright lie,” said Paterson. “In addition, the governor has not done anything wrong and will not be resigning. The source of these rumors is a profile that is being done on me by the New York Times, and the New York Times has allowed it to be known that there would be a bombshell in this article. But when I sat down with the Times on Monday morning, there was no bombshell to report. They talked about my staff members; they asked me why I hired staff people; they asked me about my campaign, my expenditures; and they asked about how I use my time. They did not ask me any questions about any of these false charges.
“So my question is, why would a news outlet who knows that these rumors are being spread about you–and that they are being sourced in the article–not clarify for the public that they have not come up with any of this evidence? Why would they not assure the public that the governor is not going to have to resign?”
The gov has even more questions: “Why instead would they [stir] up a feeding frenzy in which irresponsible journalists are printing absolute lies and unsourced allegations? Speculations are what might be happening, but for the public it all mushrooms together. After a while, people, because they hear lies long enough, start to believe them.”
On a roll, Paterson continued, “In what dictatorship does a citizen, even if he is governor, get gossiped about for two and a half weeks, and when it is learned that none of the information is true, not one snip of it, that nobody is held accountable? There’s no accountability. Now when government does something, there’s always accountability: Why didn’t he do this? Why didn’t he do that? Well, this time I’m asking them, why didn’t they show any integrity?”
Did he ask the New York Times these very questions?
“First my communications staff called them two weeks ago, and last week I called their political editor. On Monday I went to talk to the entire New York Times editorial board–and they told me that that wasn’t their area. I spoke to the reporter and he said they’re not responsible for the other media outlets. Other public officials and interested parties have contacted them and they have refused to comment. Other media outlets have called and asked them questions, and they have refused to answer the questions.
“All this time, they’ve been enjoying the popularity, being the center of attention, while a governor who is trying to do his job is being slandered.”
In response to an Amsterdam News request for comment, Diane McNulty, executive director of New York Times Community Affairs and Media Relations, simply referred the paper to their cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com website. On the site there is being held a discussion on how “newspapers, blogs, reputable outfits and fringe gossip sites have worked themselves into a frenzy about a purported article in the New York Times that would be so scandalous as to compel Gov. David A. Paterson to resign. It has often been a self-feeding, self-referential frenzy.”
Joe Sexton, the Times’ metropolitan editor, said: “Obviously we are not responsible for what other news organizations are reporting. It’s not coming from the Times.”
“Where have you ever seen this type of vile journalism directed against a governor or any other political leader?” boomed City Councilman Charles Barron. “These are unsubstantiated claims against Gov. Paterson, and yet they are repeated as news and facts with more vitriol than any of the known cases like a Clinton or Spitzer. The assault on Paterson is unwarranted, and yet it is mirrored by the similar, ongoing attack on our Black president, Barack Obama. Race is most definitely a factor.”
“I’ve seen a lot of journalism that I thought was improper in my time, but I can’t remember ever seeing anything like this,” Paterson noted about the intense and relentless media coverage, which has had him berated on the front pages of the city’s tabloids. “And in addition, I think that a media outlet has an obligation to the public as much as to an individual [to ensure] that mere rumoring and gossip is not destabilizing the government.”
The governor continued, “The same organization did an editorial telling me not to run. The same organization that printed an article saying that White House sources sent Congressman Greg Meeks to tell me to get out of the race, when Congressman Greg Meeks went on the record two days later and said that he did not do that.”
There are those who are being very vocal about possible undeclared political motivations in the leaking of a story that has no named sources or evidence.
“I don’t want to ascribe motivations,” said the focus of this latest political brouhaha, “because I don’t want to do what I am being subjected to. I don’t want to rumor or speculate. I just know that this was very orchestrated. Clarence Thomas thought he got a high-tech lynching; this is a cyber lynching.”
In order to get back on track and redirect the conversation, Paterson said that the Black community in particular, but the wider community in general, should “focus on the fact that Black businesses have gotten five times the business from the state since I became governor in the last 22 months. We should focus on the fact that we have created $162 million in profit in the last year [for] minority-owned construction firms. We should know that the New York State Judicial Committee on Minorities said that no one has ever put more minorities on the bench than I have in the last two years. We should focus on the fact that with stimulus money and the new economy money like green jobs, I have made sure that there is a 13 percent quota for African-Americans and Hispanics. And we should be aware that I passed the strongest mortgage foreclosure prevention legislation in the country.
“The other companies are trying to emulate what we’re doing, and we provided $350 million to reduce the loans that students have to pay to CUNY and SUNY. When you look behind the gossip, you find that I have delivered to these communities in the middle of a recession. It’s not easy to notice it because of the overall unemployment rate, which is four times as high for Black New Yorkers than it is for the average. But it is paving the way for the future.”
And yet, he proclaims, all this has been studiously ignored by the general press. “I’ve never seen the mainstream media talk about what I have done for minority- and women-owned businesses. It’s like they don’t care.”
Paterson reflected further: “They don’t care that New York State’s record for minority participation in awarding firms opportunities in banking, insurance and in the sales of securities was worse than the state of Mississippi until I got here. Now we’re in the top five states in the country.”
Asked if he thinks that these accomplishments for women and so-called “minority” owned businesses are part of the reasons for the vitriolic media backlash, the same man who said at a press conference in Albany on Tuesday, “The only way I’m not going to be governor next year is at the ballot box. The only way that I’ll be leaving office before then is in a box,” told the Amsterdam News on Wednesday, “They don’t want me to run for office for a number of reasons. Certainly, we’re bringing a new culture of fairness, and a lot of people are not interested in seeing that kind of fairness. That’s why we’ve never had it before.”
Next week is going to be a big one, Paterson predicted. “We are going to make our campaign announcement on February 20,” he said. “We are going to continue to raise money; we are going to continue to seek political support. But most of all, we are going to continue to fight for the people of New York, and that means all people.”
The Amsterdam News inquired if Paterson had any comment on Attorney Andrew Cuomo, his still yet undeclared possible opponent in this year’s gubernatorial election, and the governor responded, “I’m not going to blame or start any rumors about anyone else when I have no more information than the people who started rumors about me. When I can prove it, I’ll talk about it. Other than that, I have nothing to say.”