To say that New York Governor David Paterson is under seige is an understatement.
To say he appears to be clueless is an even bigger one.
Today, the N.Y. State Comission on Public Integrity charged Paterson with violating ethics laws in securing premium tickets from the Yankees for the opening game of the World Series last year.
He also falsely testified under oath about the tickets.
But despite the fact that I am a native New Yorker and my son has a shrine to the Yankees in his bedroom (okay, yes specifically to A-Rod; forgive me all Red Sox friends), that is not the subject of this article because we are, after all, a site focusing on sexual and reproductive justice issues.
And that is where the Governor long ago fell down the rabbit hole.
The New York Times reported yesterday that Paterson was found to have initiated calls by others to the woman who accused a close aide of Patersons of violently beating her. This newest set of revelations has resulted in calls by women’s advocates for Paterson to resign.
According to Times reporters Danny Hakim and William Rashbaum, Governor Paterson “personally directed two state employees to contact the woman who had accused his close aide of assaulting her, according to two people with direct knowledge of the governor’s actions.”
Mr. Paterson instructed his press secretary, Marissa Shorenstein, to ask the woman to publicly describe the episode as nonviolent, according to a third person, who was briefed on the matter. That description would contradict the woman’s accounts to the police and in court.
Mr. Paterson also enlisted another state employee, Deneane Brown, a friend of both the governor and the accuser, to make contact with the woman before she was due in court to finalize an order of protection against the aide, David W. Johnson, the two people with direct knowledge said. Ms. Brown, an employee of the Division of Housing and Community Renewal, reached out to the woman on more than one occasion over a period of several days and arranged a phone call between the governor and the woman, Mr. Johnson’s companion.
After the calls from Ms. Brown and the conversation with the governor, the woman failed to appear for the court hearing on Feb. 8, and the case was dropped.
These accounts provide the first evidence that Mr. Paterson helped direct an effort to influence the accuser.
“Of Ms. Shorenstein’s call,” the Times‘ story continues, “the person briefed on the matter described it as an effort to “reconfirm what the governor had said before, that it was not an acrimonious — it was not a friendly breakup but it wasn’t acrimonious, that the allegation itself was not true.”
In short, Paterson was obstructing the efforts of a woman to protect herself from a man who had choked her, beat her, slammed her against furniture, and repeatedly prevented her from calling for help (not surprisingly). And to help his close aide with this “bad breakup” Paterson helpfully decided to intervene, not once, not twice, but repeatedly…through phone calls, the use of the state police and through other means.
Key leaders in the women’s movement have called on Paterson to resign.
“This latest news is very disappointing for those of us who believed the governor was a strong advocate for women’s equality and for ending violence against women,” said Marci Pappas, president of the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women, an influential player in Democratic politics. “In spite of the governor’s heretofore excellent record on women’s issues, it is now time for the governor to step down.”
Some black Democrats in New York have expressed concern that racism is at work in Paterson’s demise. I must respectfully say I don’t see it. What Paterson did to interfere with the safety and possibly life of this woman was unconscionable, Yankee tickets or no. Moreover, let’s not forget that he came into office because another governor, Elliot Spitzer, a white man, resigned in disgrace. The bottom line is that people want politicians who are accountable, not creepy.
In regard to Paterson’s situation, State Senator Craig M. Johnson, a Nassau County Democrat, said: “This is about leadership. And sometimes leadership is knowing when you can’t lead any more.”