ABC News' David Chalian reports: New York's embattled governor, David Paterson (D-NY), spent the second day in a row pushing back on an anticipated New York Times profile that may or may not be damaging to Paterson. The Empire State's chief executive has been suffering from anemic poll numbers, but has rebuffed all calls from the White House on down to bow out of this year's gubernatorial contest.
"The only way I'm not going to be governor next year is at the ballot box, and the only way that I will be leaving the office before is in a box," Paterson said during a news conference today.
Yesterday, Paterson conducted an interview with the Associated Press in which he pushed back against what he called the "callous and sleazy" treatment he has received as the rumor mill has been kicked into high gear about what the New York Times profile may or may not contain.
And late today, the governor's top aide, Lawrence Schwartz, sent a letter to the public editor of the New York Times to complain about how the Gray Lady has conducted itself throughout its reporting of the profile and to request that he launch an inquiry into the Times' actions and decisions.
"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," writes Schwartz.
"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."
The Times has yet to publish its story, but it has posted a blog item about the increased political reaction to the rumors surrounding the possible story.
Lawrence Schwartz' full letter to NY Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt is below:
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.