Howard Kurtz criticized the media's behavior on Reliable Sources Sunday morning and asked: "How on earth do media organizations justify reporting what's essentially damaging gossip?" Two top New York reporters joined Kurtz to answer that question.
Marcia Kramer, chief political correspondent for WCBS 2 in New York, said she was aware that the New York Times was working on a story about the governor more than three weeks ago, but did not consider going on-air with what may or may not be in the Times story until the Governor himself discussed it during a press conference Tuesday.
"That becomes the story," Kramer said. "The governor decided that his strategy would be to talk about it to try to kill it. And, you know, once he started talking about it publicly...the hyperbole kept getting more and more and more… I mean, you had to cover it. I mean, he's the governor of the state of New York."
Paterson was a guest on CNN's Larry King Live on Thursday and said he believed somebody is out to get him. He, again, called rumors of his resignation "a flat out lie."
Joanna Molloy, veteran columnist for the New York Daily News said Paterson is acting "paranoid."
"He doesn't seem to understand the way that the blogs work now," Molloy said.
"First the blog put it up. Something called 'Business Insider' which is owned by a man named Henry Blodget, who actually was ousted from the finance industry by [former New York Governor] Eliot Spitzer. They put it up, as Governor Paterson said, in the first quarter of the Super Bowl. Huffington Post put it up shortly thereafter," Molloy explained. "If he got three phone calls during the Super Bowl, it simply means that people saw The Huffington Post posting.“
Kramer said the press had good reason to investigate allegations of improper conduct against the Governor because The New York Post saw Paterson at lunch in New Jersey with a woman other than his wife, dressed in what Kramer described as "a purple disco shirt." Paterson denied any wrongdoing, but Kramer said the Governor's explanation that the woman in question is a member of his staff and that he was on his way to a fundraiser for Haiti doesn't add up.
"That made the rest of the rumors take on a new credence," Kramer said. "Right as all the rumors about The Times investigating him came to fore, here was that headline and those pictures with that woman who really existed. So, that, in the court of public opinion, and also in the chattering classes, I would say, people felt, well, they had to check out the other rumors they were hearing."
The executive editor of The New York Times, Bill Keller, told the paper's public editor in a column published Sunday morning, that addressing rumors "spreads them and gives them an aura of credibility, even if the intent is the opposite. For The Times to issue a statement saying, 'We are not investigating rumors about the sex life or drug use or financial shenanigans of Public Figure X' doesn't clear the good name of Public Figure X."
Kurtz questioned the ethics of the entire media establishment with respect to the coverage of Gov. Paterson. "I think this was a humiliating moment for the press, for the blogosphere, for all of us collectively, to report something based on a whisper of a rumor, of a possibility that a newspaper can report something really bad, perhaps devastating. But the story hasn't come out," Kurtz said. "I think this is Exhibit A in why people do not like journalists, and why they think that we go way too far when we don't have the goods."