The sordid rumors swirling around New York Governor David Paterson—that he has been engaging in the 55-year-old public servant’s equivalent of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, all to be revealed in gory detail by the New York Times—reached critical mass on Sunday night.
Never mind the Super Bowl. The media-political complex was buzzing with the certainty that the Times’ weeks-long investigation would be so devastating, Paterson was not only going to suspend his gubernatorial campaign, he was going to resign from office.
Today. Now. After the Times unleashed hell.
A grim-faced Paterson said the following: “I’m not commenting on any of this stuff.”
Well, it seems that much of the hyperventilation has been for naught. The Times is days away from publishing, the governor did not resign, and his campaign presses onward, with its top officials implying that the damaging rumors are emanating from Paterson’s political adversaries (read: operatives of his likely Democratic primary opponent, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo).
Early this morning, one of Paterson’s press aides phoned me to say that if I showed up at the Knickerbocker Club on Fifth Avenue, where the governor was scheduled to have breakfast with major donors, he would knock down the rumors in an interview. “He will only be able to give you two minutes,” the aide advised, and I reported to the club as instructed.
• Lloyd Grove: Spitzer’s Redemption StrategyBut instead of providing the sort of stouthearted, Churchchillian vow to battle that he often favors in times of stress, a grim-faced Paterson said the following: “I’m not commenting on any of this stuff.”
And then, looking beleaguered, he and his security detail swept into the club.
It is perhaps unfair to expect the governor to grapple with ghosts. The rumors that have been published thus far (mainly by the New York Post)—that he was spotted canoodling with “a leggy Latina” in a New Jersey restaurant, and that state troopers were banished from the governor’s mansion after he was caught cuddling with a woman in a utility closet—have fallen far short of being substantiated. His spokespeople—and even his wife Michelle—have roundly denied them.
The other, even seamier, gossip making the rounds seems to be the result of what always happens when a T-Rex like the Times starts thrashing around in the jungle. The Times is said to be focusing on the governor’s relationship with two of his closest confidants, David Johnston and Clem Harris, who are seen by some as enablers. But often, when a reporter asks a question, it gets repeated and amplified as though it were evidence.
As for evidence, Paterson campaign officials so far have none that Cuomo-ites have been spreading the rumors, but they certainly want everybody to believe it. “The governor started making calls two weeks ago to step up his campaign effort and get ready to officially announce his re-election campaign," Paterson’s campaign manager, Richie Fife, said Sunday night in a statement. "The calls were–and are–going well ... And then look what happens–a coordinated effort to stop him and spread rumors."
Paterson Spokesman Peter Kauffman echoed Fife’s suspicions: “This is a new low even by the standards of Planet Albany. 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 fueling it."
Meanwhile, Times Albany reporter Danny Hakim, one of those working on the alleged Paterson blockbuster, was in no mood to shed any light: “You know I’m not going to talk to you right now,” he said with a laugh. “I’m hanging up. Goodbye.”
Lloyd Grove is editor at large for The Daily Beast. He is also a frequent contributor to New York magazine and was a contributing editor for Condé Nast Portfolio. He wrote a gossip column for the New York Daily News from 2003 to 2006. Prior to that, he wrote the Reliable Source column for the Washington Post, where he spent 23 years covering politics, the media, and other subjects.