Paterson Denies Rumors, Interviews With The New York Times

News // Only in NY

In the last week we’ve seen all sorts of rumors surrounding the governor, including drug use and more affairs, all coming from a forthcoming “bombshell” story that might force his resignation. The rumors around the governor seem to be dying down, and it seems appropriate to note some of the recent news in response to my earlier post. I pointed to the rumors because they were dominating much of the story here in New York, but I am glad that the profile will likely contain a lot less scandal than some papers and blogs have been suggesting.

Even the NY Post is reporting on the Governor’s fervent denials. Paterson called the rumors “callous and sleazy” and said that papers (the Post obviously included) have been “stretching the bounds of journalism.”

Paterson met with the Times reporters yesterday for an hour and half. At a press conference afterward, when Paterson asked if he was asked of the more gritty rumors said “No such questions related to any of that information was asked of me at any interview.” He continued: “The article will be written about other subjects.”

Now the story itself, rather than its contents, are becoming news. Today Lawrence Schwartz, the Governor’s Chief of staff, sent a letter to Clark Hoyt, the public editor of the Times. The Public Editor is the Times’s ombudsmen. His profileon Times site describes his job: “The public editor works outside of the reporting and editing structure of the newspaper and receives and answers questions or comments from readers and the public, principally about articles published in the paper.” Schwartz’s letter says that the Times should have denied the rumors and notes 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.

The letter also asks that Hoyt conduct an inquiry in to the matter. In response to the letter Times spokeswoman Diane McNulty says the newspaper isn’t responsible for what other news outlets and blogs reported. That echos what Joe Sexton, The Times’s Metropolitan Editor, said Tuesday evening: “Obviously we are not responsible for what other news organizations are reporting. It’s not coming from The Times.” That seems like a cop-out to me, they might as well have said “Well, it’s not our problem and we look forward to you all buying our paper.”

One thing is known for sure: Paterson is not resigning. At yesterday’s news conference he said: “The only way I’m not going to be governor next year is at the ballot box, and the only way I’m leaving before that is in a box.”