New York's New Governor Admits to Several Affairs
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
On Monday, David Paterson was sworn in as the new governor of New York to raucous cheers. The very next day, he held an extraordinary news conference with his wife in which they both acknowledge having extramarital affairs.
Governor Paterson said he had affairs with a number of woman several years ago. Paterson became governor when Eliot Spitzer resigned after reports that he hired prostitutes. Just another week in New York politics.
Fred Dicker joins us from Albany to talk about it. He's state editor for The New York Post.
Fred, you've been there for many, many years. Have you ever seen a news conference quite like this, one yesterday?
Mr. FRED DICKER (State Editor, The New York Post): Never, and that was a consensus amongst the press corps. Frankly, some of us felt like we had to take at least a figurative shower after it was over. It was just so icky, so uncomfortable.
BLOCK: Interesting though because both of them were quite forthright in saying, this was a troubled patch in our marriage, we worked it out, were together and thing are fine now.
Mr. DICKER: Well, they didn't say that - how forthright they were, I'm not sure. They're saying too have occurred under some (unintelligible) new governor's part, why the governor and his wife volunteered that his wife has had an extramarital affair - nobody could figure out. That was really irrelevant to anybody's inquiries. And it just seems as if governor seems to be blaming his wife at one point during this extraordinary press conference when he said that he was so infused with jealousy that that's one of the reasons he was pursuing other relationships because he had jealousy from his having learned that his wife was in an extramarital relationship. And I and others said to him - the governor, are you just saying that it's your wife's fault, I mean, that she made you do it? And he goes, well, that's not really what I was saying, but implicit in this position is that that is what he was saying.
BLOCK: Let's listen to a bit of Governor Paterson's explanation for why he was coming clean in this news conference.
(Soundbite of news conference)
Governor DAVID PATERSON (Democrat, New York): I didn't want to be compromise. I didn't want to be blackmailed. I didn't want to hesitate taking an action because the person on the other end might hurt me or my family.
BLOCK: Fred, what do you think? Does that seem reasonable to you?
Mr. DICKER: Not to me. This is a governor with 2,000 state police under his command. Last night, I knew blackmail was illegal in New York. If somebody tries to blackmail you, you have a right to have them arrested and criminally charged, in addition, the idea that it was a massive state government that we have it. He's going to stumble at his governor on somebody who might be able to kind of affect his official action because he was involved in a personal relationship with him. Either suggest that, he doesn't fully understand how big the state is or he's been involved with far more people than any of us have realized.
BLOCK: You know, when the revelations came out of Eliot Spitzer, the knives were drawn. It seemed like everyone wanted to pile on, and in this case though it seems sort of like there's a collective yawn in Albany. It doesn't seem like the Republicans want to make anything of this. What do you think is going to happen now?
Mr. DICKER: Well, I mean, there are very different circumstances. Spitzer was involved in criminal conduct and he had held himself out as Mr. Public Integrity, Sheriff of Wall Street, et cetera, et cetera. He had been an attorney general. David Paterson is not a lawyer, although he's certainly is sworn to uphold the laws of New York. But there's no suggestion here that laws have been broken but there is a feeding frenzy in the press as we speak with people pursuing various angles that were public funds use or campaign funds use, if they were to pay any of these women or to cover expenses that could be something illegal. And so I think a lot people have questions about whether all the facts are out there now and the consensus is amongst the highest levels of state official that Governor Paterson has damage himself and that his tactic of trying to be preemptive has not worked well and that, in fact, he has been damaged by his admissions.
BLOCK: Meantime as these questions remain, there's nearly $5 billion budget gap in New York.
Mr. DICKER: And growing. And the state's budget which is its annual budget, of course, is due in two weeks.
BLOCK: So can the governor moves past this business about infidelity and deal with the business at hand for the state of New York?
Mr. DICKER: Well, that's the $64 question - we'll see as he tries. And legislative leaders have certainly pledged cooperation with them. I think everyone in government wants to see the government function smoothly and well, very difficult choices have to made, though, and by his own admission, he'd (unintelligible) they compared themselves to a kid taking a final exam who never went to the classes. I mean, he was lieutenant governor but the reality is the lieutenant governors often aren't kept abreast of all that's going on. And he's got a sharp learning curve now because he is not very knowledgeable on what's been going on.
BLOCK: Fred Dicker, thanks so much.
Mr. DICKER: Thank you. Bye-bye.
BLOCK: That's Fred Dicker, state editor for The New York Post speaking with us from Capital in Albany. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.