Gov. David Paterson's chief of staff is seeking an internal inquiry into how The New York Times' reporting of a story led to unproven rumors of wild, personal misconduct by Paterson.
Paterson Chief of Staff Lawrence Schwartz is releasing a letter to the public editor of the Times, blaming the newspaper for failing to stem the rumors, even after direct appeals.
Schwartz says the newspaper could have issued a public statement to end the unsubstantiated rumors that Paterson partied with women and drugs as governor.
Times spokeswoman Diane McNulty says the newspaper isn't responsible for what other news outlets and blogs reported. There was no immediate response to Schwartz's request for an inquiry by
the "public editor."
The letter came just hours after Paterson responded publicly -- and aggressively -- to unconfirmed rumors about his personal behavior in office and whispers he would soon resign, saying he will only be leaving the governor's mansion if he is voted out -- or dead.
Speaking to a room of reporters in Albany today, the embattled governor said "the only way I'm not going to be governor next year is at the ballot box and the only way I'll be leaving office before is in a box."
He then quickly turned and left the room.
The dramatic moment came at the end of a contentious news conference that was originally supposed to address the strong snow storm headed for the New York area.
Defying calls from fellow Democrats to drop out of the race for a full term, Paterson said he was "more determined" than ever to run.
Paterson attributed the rumors to news outlets and blogs other than the Times. He said that three sources contacted reporters at the start of Sunday's Super Bowl to leak word that he was about to
resign, which he said he never contemplated.
"It seems to be somewhat orchestrated," Paterson said Tuesday of the rumors, on whose source he has declined to publicly speculate.
One item by the New York Post on Jan. 30 stated he was caught by state police in a utility closet with a woman other than his wife. The Post has stood by its story. Paterson said a Times reporter who interviewed him Tuesday in the mansion couldn't even find such a closet.
He said Tuesday that after his interview with the Times, he expects its article to be a profile, not about sexual escapades or drug use.
"No such questions, really, to any of that was asked of me," he said.
The news conference, Paterson's first since the rumors started, was ostensibly called to announce plans for combating a snowstorm.
But it was clear to reporters and staffers that Paterson wanted the time to publicly declare victory over the rumors, armed with what he learned from the Times interview hours before.
He said his two children and his wife have been supportive through the week of innuendo, with one consistent message: "Don't give up, even if you are ridiculed."
Most of Paterson's fellow top Democrats were silent as the governor sought to snuff out the rumors. Cuomo refused to comment on the unsubstantiated tales, and his office wouldn't comment on
whether he supports Paterson in his battle.
"We don't comment on rumors,'' Cuomo spokesman Richard Bamberger said. ``There are serious problems facing our state and the attorney general is busy doing the job he was elected to do.''
Many Democrats have voiced wishes that Cuomo run for governor instead of Paterson, a former lieutenant governor who took the post in 2008 upon the resignation of Eliot Spitzer, named in a
prostitution investigation 23 months ago.
A day after taking office, Paterson told a news conference that he had not been faithful to his wife around 1999 when they informally separated. A week later he told a television interviewer that he had tried cocaine and marijuana when he was in his early 20s -- hardly the first few story lines a new governor would seek.
The White House last year, recognizing the challenges of helping an accidental governor keep his office, urged him to withdraw from the race in favor of Cuomo, part of a Democratic dynasty in New
York who could defend the office.
A Republican candidate for governor sided with Paterson on Tuesday.
"The Capitol is paralyzed by rumor and innuendo, and somehow we need to get past that and focus on the basic problems that people care about," Rick Lazio said. "I don't think anyone trying to get
their job done deserves this kind of phantom threat."
Democratic state leaders wouldn't comment on Paterson or the rumors as he confronts the Legislature over the state budget, an ethics bill he vetoed and the awarding of a contract for video slot machines at Aqueduct race track.
Senate Conference Leader John Sampson, a Brooklyn Democrat at odds with Paterson in legislative fights, declined to comment.
Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer also wouldn't comment, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.