New York Governor David Paterson Denies Resignation Rumors

2:06 PM, Feb 10, 2010   |    comments
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BUFFALO, N.Y. - Governor David Paterson says rumors about his resignation, and personal wrongdoing are false.

There was strong speculation in Albany that the New York Times was working on a major story that would include allegations about his personal life.

On Tuesday afternoon, the governor met with the media to discuss the forecasted snow storm for New York City. During that news conference, the governor told reporters he did in fact meet with a New York Times on Tuesday.

He said he was not asked questions about any of the alleged "rumors" that are out there about him, but did confirm the Times is doing a profile piece on him to run soon.

"I was interviewed for the piece today, there was no such questions or information (about his personal life) came up in the interview, where obviously I would have had a chance to address them.

"So the article will be written about other subjects, and not the ones that have been the source of mass speculation and feeding frenzy and circus that we have witnessed the past couple of weeks, which is a distraction while we're trying to balance the budget," said Paterson.

With all the rumors out there, Paterson said he asked editors at the Times whether they would come out publicly and say that the rumors about his personal life were false.

"They don't seem to be interested in addressing it or doing anything about it and I think it's appalling. I think this doesn't do anything but give credence and oxygen to those who would ruin the lives if they could of public officials, or anyone else, by circulating completely fabricated information about themselves and their families," said Paterson.

The governor says he doesn't know who is behind the rumors, but he did say that reporters from three different news organizations were called Sunday night and were told that he was resigning.

"I've never seen anything like it. It seems to be somewhat orchestrated. I want everyone to know that I'm running for re-election.

"I'm not resigning and the only way I'll leave the Governor's office is if I'm carried out in a box. Secretary to the Governor Lawrence Schwartz sent the following letter to Clark Hoyt, Public Editor of the New York Times.

February 9, 2010

Dear Mr. Hoyt:

Out of respect for the newspaper you serve, and the important role it has traditionally played in New York's political discourse, I write to communicate our deep disappointment in the approach taken by the New York Times in the course of compiling a profile of Governor Paterson in recent days.

No one, least of all the Governor, questions the Times' right to undertake and publish such a profile or to make it as searing and critical as the facts might justify. In recent days, however, as the Times' reporters let it be known that they were preparing such a profile, an intense and damaging series of rumors about the article's supposed content began circulating and appearing in numerous other publications.

Over the weekend, speculation about what your article might reveal reached a fever pitch, and stories emerged predicting that, because of the Times' story, the Governor would be forced to resign this week. The imagined justifications for this predicted outcome ran the gamut of the most salacious and outrageous accusations uninformed speculation could produce.

Last week, as the rumors first began intensifying, the Governor personally telephoned your political editor, Carolyn Ryan. Knowing there was no truth to the dark things being whispered, the Governor suggested to Ms. Ryan that if the paper had evidence to support a serious allegation that it had a duty to present it to him, allow him an opportunity to respond, and then publish whatever story quality reporting could justify. If it did not have such evidence, it had an obligation to counter the false accusations wrongly attributed to the Times' forthcoming article. Ms. Ryan assured him that the profile would not contain anything like the salacious rumors being circulated, but demurred on the issue of doing anything to stop them.
On Monday, the Governor made himself available to the Times' Editorial Board for an extended discussion of issues. As you may know, the Governor led the meeting by again articulating his displeasure with the media circus being generated in anticipation of the Times' story. He articulated his belief that it was unfair for the paper to permit it to continue, knowing as the Times' did that the profile would contain nothing to justify such a frenzy.

This morning, as the Times continued its silence, the public was treated to blaring front pages further whipping up and spreading false rumors, traced once again to the impending Times' profile. Despite this, the Governor made himself available this morning for an extended interview with your Albany bureau chief, Danny Hakim. During the interview, he was asked about a number of subjects, including routine campaign expenditures (like the celebration of the Governor's birthday for his volunteer campaign staff); the Governor's choice of restaurants; and various hiring decisions. While these subjects may hold some interest for the public, I hope we can agree that none even remotely justifies suggestions of resignation or the howling storm of innuendo that continues to rage while the Times plods along in preparing its story.

What is clear, therefore, is that over the last several weeks:

• the New York Times has prepared a profile of a major public figure;
• misinformation about the content of that profile sparked intense, false and damaging accusations directed at the profile's subject;
• the Times was aware that the rumors were untrue;
• the Times admitted as much to the subject during the article's preparation;
• the Times did nothing to correct the public record; and
• when the article at last appears, it will do nothing either to justify or undo the permanent reputational damage suffered by the subject.

At any point, the Times' editors could have easily issued a public statement clarifying that the profile neither contained nor supported the salacious stories being sourced to it. Doing so would not have compromised the legitimate reporting being undertaken, the exclusive content being developed, nor the paper's right to produce such a profile. A public clarification would, however, have spared the public the misleading spectacle of the last week. Common decency, if not journalistic ethics, demanded as much.

We ask that in your role as Public Editor you undertake an inquiry of the propriety of the paper's actions and decisions that allowed this sorry set of events to unfold. Unfortunately, it is not in your power nor the New York Times' to undo the damage that has been already been done in this case.

Respectfully,
Lawrence Schwartz

Governor Paterson addressed the rumors again on Wednesday morning when he appeared on the Imus radio show in New York City.

On Monday afternoon, the governor's office vehemently denied that Paterson plans to resign, and also denied that he took part in any inappropriate or illegal behavior.

The speculation came after Paterson met with Democratic leaders over the weekend to discuss his future.

A source told the New York Daily News that the possibility of Paterson stepping down was brought up during Sunday's meeting.

2 On Your Side contacted Governor Paterson's communications department and asked if they had a response concerning the speculation. Here's the updated statement they sent to us on Monday:

"The circus of the past week -- entirely fabricated out of thin air and innuendo -- is an embarrassment for all who have played a role in feeding it. Rumors of resignation and scandal are just that - rumors. The Governor has not engaged in any inappropriate or illegal behavior and suggestions to the contrary are entirely false and deeply irresponsible. This is a new low even by the standards of planet Albany. Governor Paterson is the governor today, he will be the governor tomorrow and he will win re-election this fall."

Paterson has run campaign ads suggesting he will run for office this fall. He currently sits behind New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is several Democratic polls, despite the fact Cuomo has not announced his intention run for Governor.

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