January 22nd, 2009
07:05 PM ET
4 years ago

Source: Paterson was not going to pick Kennedy

Caroline Kennedy is no longer interested in replacing Hillary Clinton in the U.S. Senate.

Caroline Kennedy is no longer interested in replacing Hillary Clinton in the U.S. Senate.

NEW YORK (CNN) - Gov. David Paterson had no intention of appointing Caroline Kennedy to fill the Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton, a source close to the New York governor told CNN Thursday.

The source told CNN that Paterson did not think Kennedy was "ready for prime time," citing her efforts, at times awkward, at trying to win the appointment. She told the press at midnight as Wednesday turned into Thursday that she was withdrawing her name from consideration.

Paterson is charged with naming a replacement for Clinton, who resigned her seat to become the secretary of state in President Obama's administration.

"She clearly has no policy experience and couldn't handle the pressure," said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation. "Why would he pick her given how badly she handled herself in recent weeks?"

A Kennedy ally, though, denied that she had any indication he was leaning against choosing her to fill out Clinton's term.

And another Kennedy confidante said that Kennedy allies are getting frustrated about what they perceive as the governor's insiders slighting her.

The sharp denunciation of Kennedy by a Paterson ally opened a window into what appears to be a stressed courtship between the daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy and the governor.

Paterson, who is expected to name his choice Friday, has been coy about who he will pick to replace Clinton. Kennedy had been very public in expressing her interest in succeeding the former first lady in the Senate by meeting with state and community leaders throughout the state.

Kennedy cited personal reasons in her decision not to continue pursuing the Senate seat.

"I informed Governor Paterson today that for personal reasons I am withdrawing my name from consideration for the United States Senate," Kennedy said in the statement.

She did not offer any further explanation beyond the one line statement.

Her uncle, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, was rushed to the hospital on Tuesday following Obama's swearing-in ceremony. But an aide to Caroline Kennedy indicated that Sen. Kennedy's health was not the reason she decided to withdraw.

By early Thursday afternoon, there was still confusion over how and why Kennedy withdrew her name from consideration. The source close to the governor told CNN that Kennedy initially called Paterson in the afternoon to tell him that "she was feeling unsure about her candidacy" and "asked him for 24 hours to think about it."

A Kennedy aide said that during the call with the governor, it was Paterson who told her to take more time to think about her decision.

Later Wednesday evening, the governor started getting phone calls from the media saying that they heard she had withdrawn. At around 11 p.m. ET, the source close to the governor said that Kennedy called Paterson and "said she was issuing a statement saying she was in the race." One hour later, the source said that Kennedy issued a statement withdrawing from the race.

Paterson's office finally addressed the matter late Thursday afternoon in a prepared statement.

"Last night Caroline Kennedy informed the Governor that she was withdrawing her name from consideration for an appointment to the United States Senate for personal reasons," Paterson's office said. "This decision was hers alone."

Paterson's office acknowledged the Wednesday afternoon conversation between the governor and Kennedy, but did not divulge what was said during that call.

"Out of respect for her decision making process, the Governor's Office did not respond to any inquiries in order to allow her time to deliberate," Paterson's office said in the statement. "The Governor considers Caroline a friend and knows she will continue to serve New York well inside or outside of government. We wish her well in all her future endeavors."

Paterson's office also noted that he is "now entering the final phase of his selection process."

Kennedy was widely considered the front-runner to replace the former first lady, who won the New York Senate seat in 2000, and almost all of the buzz about a replacement centered around her. But as the weeks dragged on, polling showed her popularity among New Yorkers dwindling.

Paterson's office also stated that the governor had not obtained any information during the selection process that would prompt a candidate to withdraw. There have been a number of rumors speculating as to why Kennedy, a member of Obama's vice presidential search committee, decided to withdraw her name.

Despite the governor's public statement, the source close to the governor contradicted Paterson by telling CNN that Kennedy did have potentially embarrassing issues including problems with her taxes and with her nanny.

People who move in New York political circles were buzzing Thursday about the endless finger pointing between people loyal to Paterson and those loyal to Kennedy.

Contacted by CNN to address the allegations of problems with taxes and a nanny, Kennedy's spokesman Stefan Friedman said in a prepared statement: "Caroline Kennedy withdrew her name for consideration from the United States Senate for personal reasons. Any statements to the contrary are false. The governor set up a fair and deliberative selection process. This kind of mudslinging demeans that process and all those involved."

- CNN's Candy Crowley, Gloria Borger, John King, Dana Bash and Mark Preston contributed to this report

Filed under: Caroline Kennedy • David Paterson
soundoff (100 Responses)
  1. Carl Justus

    I would think that Paterson would appoint Andrew Cuomo anyway. I think that Caroline Kennedy would be fine as a senator and better than most that are there now, but she has sort of avoided the political spotlight until now and that would be a hindrance to her getting the appointment.

    January 22, 2009 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  2. yen

    I wish Caroline had stayed and gotten the New York senator seat. Caroline has the phylosophical thinking good for America.

    January 22, 2009 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  3. Sherrol in Canada

    I always thought Paterson wouldn't pick Caroline. After all, he has to think about his own political future. The people of New York State were against Caroline for US Senator and he will be up for re-election soon.

    I'm sad to see Caroline go, but them's the breaks!!

    January 22, 2009 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  4. NYS Voter

    This New York State resident is greatly relieved that Caroline is out of the running – no matter why. She is clearly not ready to take on a Senate seat, even in the best of times. And at this point, NY would lose far more than we would gain.

    New York City may have been excited about the prospect, but Kennedy failed to impress upstaters. In her entire life, she had never been to ANY upstate city, "you know."

    I found her sense of entitlement to be arrogant. And I marvel at how New York City residents listened to themselves so much they began to believe that Kennedy was inevitable.

    Kennedy's "friends" do her no favors by attacking the Governor. He never promised anyone anything. Although City residents want to believe it, nothing was ever "in the bag."

    I have enormous respect for Mr. Paterson. I'm very glad he is our governor. He is intelligent and thoughtful.

    January 22, 2009 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  5. legal in nc

    Now that's an easy way for Paterson to get by with not having to choose her and still stay in the Kennedy's good graces.

    January 22, 2009 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  6. Sean

    David Paterson can go to hell ....He made a statement last week that she was not qualified ........By the way I saw you on Cheaters

    January 22, 2009 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  7. Br

    I hope Patterson stops Bloomberg and the MTA from increasing fares on the common folk !!

    January 22, 2009 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  8. curtis in WI

    As I said yesterday – she got the call it wasn't going to be her and she quickly put out the story that she was withdrawing to save face. Who withdraws from anything at midnight?

    January 22, 2009 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  9. Jan

    Anna, Missouri January 22nd, 2009 8:10 pm ET
    Jan– I have written very pro-Obama comments and have had them remain "in moderation" I think it has more to do with staffing problems because it has happened several times, mostly, when there are a large number of comments, when the article is several hours old, or on weekends or in the evening.
    Thank you, Anna - but don't you think CNN could do an article explaining all of this?

    January 22, 2009 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  10. C Spurgeon

    She is a very private person, always has been and has decided she isn't interested. Leave her alone and go after some who like to be in the limelight..maybe Palin. That ought to satisfy the hungry press...not journalists, just press mongers.

    January 22, 2009 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  11. kevin

    i feel this all boiled down to paterson wanting another term in the gov. office. the forces to be, pulled his coatail and said "if you want to enjoy another term as gov. you will appoint cumo. then all you hypocrites want to burn blagojevich at the stake. its crookery like this that is going to be the end of this country. as like the roman empire these people thats been in office GOLDBRICKING AND SANDBAGGING THEIR WAY , ALL these years for that gov pension and health benfits. its time for a change nev. and calif , reid and pelosi have sandbagged to long its time for new young leaders.

    January 22, 2009 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  12. Denise

    I honestly do not feel Kennedy was qualified to be a Senator. This woman has spent her entire life shying away from the public eye and doing good deeds. Caroline needs to stick to that. I was stunned when I heard she was considering the post HRC held as Sen for NY. It did not sound right to me then and it does not sound right now. I cannot invision Caroline enduring the medslinging that goes on during a campaign, which she would have had to endure in 2010. I know she said she was inspired by Obama, but leaping to become Sen of NY was far too big a leap for somebody who has never had political aspirations. Slow it down, girlie!

    January 22, 2009 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  13. Farrell, Houston, Tx


    January 22, 2009 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  14. amira

    Paterson is full of it, how can they deny this to Carolyn Kennedy the daughter of a slain President of the United states, and a slain uncle who sacrified their lifes for this country. Dirty old politics, wont be surprised if Hillary Clinton is involved in this!

    January 22, 2009 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  15. dustin

    now sarah palin should be ashamed and admit she should have never been picked either.

    January 22, 2009 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  16. Merle

    How embarrasing...who's advising you Caroline? FIRE THEM!!

    January 22, 2009 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  17. Daniel

    It looks like it's a done deal: Paterson has chosen Gillibrand!

    January 22, 2009 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  18. TexAnnie *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

    If I were Governor Paterson, I would find out who that "source close to the New York governor" is, and I would fire his or her backside in a New York second. You don't need idiots like that on your staff.
    People like that think that by leaking something to the press that it makes them look like some kind of bigshot & think it builds up their importance in the eyes of the reporter.
    Newsflash to the anonymous "source"– the press only looks at you as an easy mark they can get something from. In private, they consider you a scumbag.

    January 22, 2009 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  19. chuck


    January 22, 2009 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  20. bobbie

    as much as i love the kennedys, caroline's skin is just not thick enough for the barracudas she'll run into. she just doesn't have the 'knack' to face the firestorm. she may be smart, but it takes a combination of things to carry it off.

    January 22, 2009 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  21. Glenn N

    It is now time, more than ever before, that the US political landscape is built upon talent, integrity and ability rather than a Senator being invited to the seat on the coat tails of their family name alone!

    January 22, 2009 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  22. Perusing-Through


    FACT #1] – There were at least 10 Senate candidates to throw their hat in the ring hoping to be pick as Senator Clinton's replacement.

    FACT #2] – Of the 10 Senate candidates, the New York media focused the "bulk of their savage attacks" on Caroline Kennedy.

    SUMMARY] – The New York media savaged Caroline Kennedy's quest for Senator in hopes that Governor Patterson would pick the media's favorite which is Andrew Cuomo.

    Now you know the rest of the story.

    January 22, 2009 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  23. Jason

    Just because you have the name dosent mean you can just get the seat.

    You want to be part of the New York Goverment but yet whens the last time you've voted (besides this year)?

    January 22, 2009 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  24. S Callahan

    I don't think most career politicians get the public message....
    it's not about being 'prime'....it's about ambition, it's about committment to the public and their needs.....
    This comment from MY Gov. really irks me......he, of all people, should know after being 'given' his position this was a very UNFAIR comment towards Ms. Kennedy.

    New York needs an overhall....poiitics wasn't meant for a career...get a law degree if you want a career......politics is about the people...why can't you understand that!

    January 22, 2009 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  25. Rob Stumpf

    Yes, she had personal issues to address...it was a mix of the usual: tax problems, marriage problems, etc.

    And oh, yeah...she had that face-saving problem. Withdraw before you are rejected.....what a fiasco....Profiles in Confusion.

    Where are those commenters that said she was qualified to be a Senator because of her last name? Hello? Do you realize now that that "logic" made no sense?

    January 22, 2009 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
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