What tactics might new governor David Paterson take in dealing with the media when they ask questions about his personal life, I asked Ken Sunshine, the public relations man who is friendly with both Paterson and former governor Eliot Spitzer, late last week.
“I think he should tell the press to go fuck themselves when they ask things that are inappropriate,” he said. “Of course, I don’t think he should follow that advice. You should delve into the lives of politicians at the same level you delve into the lives of press people.”
But already, resulting in what was either a full disclosure or a limited hangout or a modified limited hangout, Paterson and his wife were conducting interviews with Juan Gonzalez of the New York Daily News. Meeting since Saturday, the couple carefully disclosed news of years-old mutual extramarital affairs.
Paterson would not divulge the name of the woman he said that he slept with. Reporters both in New York and Albany are working now to identify the woman, and are being shut down by the governor’s staff pending further announcement.
“Neither Paterson nor his wife identified the individuals with whom they cheated. This would, of course, become more of an issue if the woman with whom Paterson had an affair is or was on the state payroll,” Liz Benjamin wrote on the Daily News’ Daily Politics blog late last night.
Why, of course! it would! That statement is something akin to leading the witness.
In this latest iteration of his friendly relationship with the Daily News, Paterson has pissed off both the New York Times and the New York Post. While the Times is certainly happy to let the tabloids lead with a lower news standard when it comes to sex lives and non-impeachable moral offenses by elected officials, there’s also no way that they haven’t been working on this story.
A story posted online early this morning at the Times, by Danny Hakim, nearly seethes. “It was not clear if he had subsequent relationships outside his marriage, and no details were given of any extramarital affair that Ms. Paterson may have had.”
Both “not clear” and “any” are very strange choices in phrasing.
And the poor Post reporters, at the mercy of a no-doubt enraged editor Col Allan, went the extra mile to protect their tabloid reputation. Early this morning, their web site began trumpeting that “Gov. Paterson carried on an extramarital affair for several years, The Post has learned.”
Reporters believed that there was a window over the past week in which to ask questions about Paterson’s personal life. In light of Eliot Spitzer’s crazy prostitute problems, they had both motive and opportunity—and maybe even a pass on being blacklisted—for asking questions about the new governor’s personal life.
Last week, at Paterson’s first news conference, he was asked if he’d ever patronized a prostitute. He answered in the negative.
“That was the last question,” wrote Benjamin at the Daily Politics. “No one got a chance to ask the governor-to-be whether there is anything—anything at all—in his background about which New Yorkers should be concerned.”
“I suspect the question will have to get asked again,” wrote Jay Jochnowitz, the state editor of the Times Union, on his blog.
Something was in the air!
Shortly after Jochnowitz wrote that, Errol Cockfield—formerly Spitzer’s press person, now Paterson’s—poked his head in the press office and said “The answer’s ‘no’!” Jochnowitz had no idea at first what he was talking about, but figured it out pretty fast.
So, what about David Paterson and the rumors, I asked Sunshine. “We’re supposed to examine David Pateron’s sex life just because he’s the incoming governor?” he said. “I think it’s insane.”
“I hadn’t even thought about it until you said it,” he said. “What about David Paterson’s personal life? I know him pretty well. It’s just ridiculous. A lovely wife who I know and a great family and kids. I don’t know and I don’t want to know! Just crazy.”