Gawker and CJR release Paterson Emails, Little Revealed

The lengthy, sordid tale of sex, lies, and email correspondence surrounding David Paterson came to something of an unassuming conclusion this morning.

Recall the swirl of February rumors surrounding the possible existence of a unreleased New York Times story concerning David Paterson, which prompted a flurry of emails to Paterson’s press shop, leaving the governor’s aides to try and tamp down a swirl of unspecific charges. (Ed. Note — The Observer‘s former media reporter, John Koblin, is widely credited/blamed with starting the firestorm with this tweet: “anyone hearing about NYT bombshell on Paterson? Heard big, damanging story comin. been working for weeks, but still not published yet.” It’s less often mentioned that Fred Dicker referenced the rumors on his radio show the day before, and that Liz Benjamin wrote this on her Daily Politics blog an hour earlier than Koblin’s tweet, as context for a letter State Police Superintendent Harry Corbitt published in the Post that morning: “The rumor mill has been running overtime in recent weeks about Paterson and the possibility that a major newspaper is about to drop a bombshell story about his personal life that will be far worse than his acknowledged extramarital affair with a former state employee.”)

The content of those emails became the subject of another round of controversy, when Freedom of Information Law requests made by Gawker and Columbia Journalism Review for the emails were denied. Citing New York’s Shield Law, the Governors Assistant Counsel argued in a letter to CJR that the correspondence between reporters and their sources (in this case, former Communications Director Peter Kauffmann and former Press Secretary Marissa Shorenstein) was exempt from FOIL. In response, Gawker and CJR sued Paterson for access to the emails.

This morning, both Gawker and CJR reported that the state had finally released the documents. And the results were…underwhelming. Virtually absent of any significant development or intrigue, what the released emails mostly reveal is the often-touchy relationship between reporters and the governor’s communications staff. The bulk of the emails between Mr. Kauffmann and the Associated Press’s Michael Gormley, for example, consist mostly of Kauffmann denying rumors and Gormley lamenting the editorial pressure he was receiving to publish something. “Count me among those getting crap from above for not writing that the governor was involved in a sex-cocaine orgy,” Gormley wrote.

There’s also Mr. Kauffman questioning the professionalism of Mr. Koblin’s Albany-shaking tweet: “Let me get this straight in terms of journalistic integrity. You don’t need a single source and you can feel free to report gossip and rumors as ‘news’ if you do it via Twitter?”

Also present was some confirmation that The Times was indeed at some point investigating Paterson’s sexual exploits. In an email to Shorenstein, Times writer Danny Hakim asks directly: “Have the State Police caught the governor in compromising positions in the mansion with women who are not his wife? (Our understanding is that they have on more than one occasion.”

Heavy stuff, but The Daily New‘s Elizabeth Benjamin lightens things up with her indignant inquiry as to why fellow Daily News reporter Ken Lovett received a callback from Mr. Kauffmann when she did not. Mr. Kauffmann’s reply? “Don’t worry. I don’t plan to return Ken’s calls in the future, either.”

And that is how reporters and communications people communicate. 

Gawker and CJR release Paterson Emails, Little Revealed