'New York Times' Investigation Could Cost Gov. Paterson His Career New York Governor David Paterson is back in hot water. According to a Tuesday report in the The New York Times, Paterson personally instructed two state employees to pressure a woman who had accused his aide, David Johnson, of assault to change her story. While Governor Paterson has already dropped his reelection bid, political observers are wondering if the latest revelations could force him to resign. Guest host Lynn Neary speaks with NPR political editor Ken Rudin about the embattled governor's political future.

'New York Times' Investigation Could Cost Gov. Paterson His Career

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/124241653/124241414" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Im Lynn Neary, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Michel Martin is out sick today.

Coming up, how the drug war in Mexico and immigration enforcement in the U.S. weakens ties between immigrants and their homeland.

But first, New York Governor David Paterson is taking more heat over allegations that he abused the power of his office. The scandal erupted last week when The New York Times reported that Governor Paterson had personally intervened to help a senior aide after a woman accused him of assault.

Today, The New York Times reports that Paterson directed two state employees to get in touch with the woman and ask her to retreat from her accusations. Governor Paterson has said repeatedly that he did not abuse his office, and says he will keep doing his job.

Joining me now is NPRs political editor Ken Rudin. Welcome to program, Ken.

KEN RUDIN: Hi, Lynn.

NEARY: So, how serious is this report in New York Times today, and how will it affect Governor Paterson?

RUDIN: Its very serious. And, of course, hes been in trouble almost since day one. I mean, he took over in March of 2008 when his predecessor Eliot Spitzer resigned because of a prostitution scandal. That almost seems like, you know, a day at the park compared to what David Paterson faces.

If The New York Times report is true and that state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating this. But if its true that he instructed two aides to contact this woman to recant her claim of violence by a Patersons top aide David Johnson, then that amounts to witness tampering. Andrew Cuomo, the state attorney general, is investigating that. But if its proven, I suspect that therell be calls for Patersons impeachment.

Now, David Paterson says, Im not resigning. This is mass hysteria. I have work to do. The budget needs to be passed in four weeks, Im working on the budget. But hes not even making any headway with lawmakers on the budget, yet.

NEARY: Now how can he govern under these circumstances?

RUDIN: Thats exactly - and hes had a poor relationship with state lawmakers for the longest time anyway. And thats been going on for more than a year. And for him to be able to govern and pass a budget while fending off these accusations about witness tampering, that seems a lot for him.

NEARY: And this investigation, as you said, is being led by attorney general New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo who, of course, is believed to be a likely candidate for governor. That makes for a kind of awkward situation. Doesnt it?

RUDIN: Its very awkward. I mean, its just because Cuomo was planning to challenge Paterson from day one. Now, of course, Cuomo was very smart in all this. He has never talked about his political ambitions. He said the only thing Im here to do is to be the best attorney general I can. And hes never publicly talked about running against David Paterson, but everybody knows that that was in the cards and Patterson knew it too. Thats why it was so interesting that it was David Paterson who asked Andrew Cuomo to do this investigation.

NEARY: And Governor Paterson literally stood up in public and basically swore that hes never abused his office.

RUDIN: It...

NEARY: What do you make of that?

RUDIN: It reminds a lot of people of Richard Nixons I am not a crook. It seemed a little dramatic. But look, I think theres a feeling that David Paterson is a good guy and is not, you know, morally in trouble here. But the fact is he is very loyal to David Johnson, his top aide. And hes going to -basically if he has covered up what David Johnson has done or accused of doing - and for the record, David Johnson, his top aide, has been accused - has a history of violence accusations and violence against women in the past.

So, hes - the governor has obviously known this for long time. Hes obviously tolerated it. And, again, if he has used his office, abused his office in a way to protect David Johnson, then calls for impeachment and ultimate resignation will increase.

NEARY: Blinded by loyalty. Is this is case of being blinded by loyalty to an extent?

RUDIN: Well, you know, of course, you dont want to say blinded by with David Paterson because he is legally blind and Im not making a joke of that. But there is a certain part of David Paterson that is loyal to a fault. And, of course, there is lot of loyalty among African-American lawmakers in New York who say that that, you know, this is race behind it. That hes held to a double standard. That he shouldnt resign before the accusations can be proven. But its getting very ugly, and its very ugly very quickly.

NEARY: NPRs political editor Ken Rudin. Thanks so much for being with us, Ken.

RUDIN: Thank you, Lynn.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.