March 5th, 2010
11:00 AM ET
12 years ago

Black leaders voice support for embattled N.Y. governor

New York (CNN) - Some prominent African-American leaders are opting to stand behind embattled New York Gov. David Paterson until the state attorney general completes a probe into charges that Paterson misused the power of his office.

Black leaders held an emergency summit Thursday night at Sylvia's Restaurant in Harlem to discuss the media firestorm and flailing public support that has ensnared Paterson.

Organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton and off-limits to reporters, the meeting was an attempt to gauge the temperature of participants. Comments from attendees outside the restaurant indicated the dominant emotions inside were sympathy and restraint.

State Sen. Eric Adams pointed to Paterson's 22 years of public service in New York and said unproven allegations should not lead to the governor's demise.

"We have a competent attorney general, and he's doing an investigation," Adams said on his way into the meeting. "Let him do his job. It's our job to make sure the budget gets done."

Paterson, like his predecessor Eliot Spitzer, finds himself in the center of a major political controversy and, perhaps, another self-inflicted injury.

News reports say Paterson contacted a woman who was allegedly abused by a close aide, David Johnson. Jumping to his aide's defense, Paterson allegedly encouraged her to drop the charges, reports say. Since the allegations surfaced in The New York Times, top administration officials have jumped ship, and newspapers have called for Paterson's resignation, citing his apparent abuse of power.

However, attendees at the Harlem meeting - mainly from the political and religious sphere - largely criticized media coverage and swift judgment, especially in comparison to other politicians who have faced scandal.

New York City Councilman Charles Barron compared Paterson's imbroglio to the scandals that plagued former President Clinton.

"If Bill Clinton could be impeached as a president, and actually engaged in misconduct, and could run 50 states," Barron said, "then Paterson can run one state while under investigation."

When asked if race might be the impetus propelling the media's coverage, Barron said, "Of course it's a race thing. They don't want us in those positions. Race still matters."

The meeting was held a day after polls showed eroding public support for Paterson. According to a Quinnipiac University survey, job approval for the governor is at 24 percent - his lowest ever.

"New York state voters give Paterson big negatives, his lowest ever in a yearlong crash dive, but they're not ready to pull the trigger," said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute in a statement. "Whether it's mercy, pity or a fear of stepping into the unknown, it runs across all the demographic categories."

After the meeting, Sharpton described the scene inside the restaurant. "There were people on both sides," he said. "The overwhelming majority backed Paterson."

Leaders who attended Sylvia's include U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks, Hazel Dukes, former NAACP President Hazel Dukes and the Rev. Jacques DeGraff of the 100 Black Men of New York.

DeGraff said before the meeting his support for the governor is waning. "I think his effectiveness has reached its limits," he said. "I think it's time for him to let the Democrats to move on."

Filed under: David Paterson • New York
soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. Nice

    @ Jayne

    Really?? come on... there are plenty of dems who have done worse.... the last NY gov for one and Paterson admitted to cheating on his wife already... This is not about Paterson taking tickets to a yankee game..... This is about him using his power to influence and scare someone that might damage his administration because of what one of his aids did... He tried to cover it up. This can't be viewed as "he's a democrat so it’s ok." I for one am tired of all these dirty politicians in both parties.....

    March 5, 2010 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  2. j

    I think he should just stay in office and finish his term.

    March 5, 2010 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  3. John D

    No racism here! They'd be the first to whine if the claim was, White Leaders support God. Common people. Think! I am so sick of this one sided equal rights bull.

    March 5, 2010 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  4. Ken in NC

    They are standing behind the Gov. of NY. The magic word if BEHIND. This guy is going one way or the other but he is going. This is the only politician I have ever seen that is his own worst enemy. Republicans do not need to attack Gov. Pattersom. He is constantly on the attack against himself.

    March 5, 2010 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  5. BlackBarbie

    Blck Politicians have to get support form somewhere, why not the black community, people actually have a problem with that?, if we don't support him who will?, you?

    March 5, 2010 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  6. race matters...RAISING THE BAR

    The issue was always about race! The fact is, what good will it do to have him resign or leave office? So that the next in line A GOP can get in that position as Governor and then won the election? The fact is the GOP is behind all this mess. Using integrity as an issue, NO GOP from NYC or State has integrity. Bloomberg, and Guiliani both switch party for political expediency,...INTEGRITY? Guiliani cheated with another woman while he was still married in public view and the Catholic church still support his marriage to someone else, INTEGRITY? Bill Clinton ran 57 state/territory while he was impeached for lieing under oath? Who is this NY office of Public Integrity that NO ONE EVER EVER hear about before now, or VOTED FOR, tickets for a baseball game, are you kidding. It seems as if the Governor is been set up, and its not a race issue, its the FACTS. I wonder why is it so much of an issue to get him out? I think he consistently refuse to follow the wishes of the financial sector as did the previous Governor. Patatki who serve 3 terms was very corrupt, FREE TICKECTS TO EVERY GAME and we want to talk about integrity? PUBLIC INTEGRITY. The issue is not because he is black, the issue is apply the same standards to every person ACROSS THE BOARD. Palin did worst, and everyone think she was an angel. but the fact is Palin, Sanford, Pataki, Bill Clinton, and all these other politicians Senators etc are WHITE. The truth hurts, but if they go after a brother, they will go after any other minority. The fact is they put Patterson in the position and think, he is blind, he is black he is a rubber stamp, they never expect he woudl run for office, he was a place holder, that is what this is all about and also, many democratic politicians from NYC is out to get him because he seletc Gilibrandt a GOP who pretends to be a Democrat!

    March 5, 2010 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  7. Elliott Carlin

    Sort of like all of the blacks who voted for Mr. Obama: It was because of his views on NAFTA.

    March 5, 2010 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  8. John, Brooklyn, NY

    I actually think that this hurts Paterson as much as it helps him. While its a voice of support, it marginalizes Paterson as the "black" governor, not THE governor.

    My prediction...he'll resign by the end of March.

    March 5, 2010 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  9. Bubble of Sanity

    I was interested in what black leaders would have to say. Then I read as far as "Al Sharpton," chuckled, and am writing this post before I leave.

    There are many capable, intelligent, respectable black leaders in the United States. Some are president, congressmen, and governors.

    Al Sharpton has never been any of these. He is a joke and a buffoon, and I cannot believe that anyone but National Enquirer even thinks he is newsworthy.

    Please reconsider your appellation. He is not a leader.

    March 5, 2010 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  10. Bubble of Sanity

    Why does color have anything to do with this at all?

    Martin Luther King's dream was for a nation where no one was judged by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character.

    Little Al and all the rest need to forget color. Let's talk character and leave it at that. Of course, putting Al Sharpton in charge of character is like putting Bill Clinton in charge of a harem.

    March 5, 2010 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  11. Read the constitution

    You liberals don't even understand....IT'S THE DEMS THAT WANT PATTERSON GONE!! Repubs have nothing to do with this one. King obama has called on Patterson not to run for re-election. Quit the blame game. This is about the Dem machine. If you call people racists, look in the mirror then.

    March 5, 2010 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  12. Wake Up

    Seriously...DEMS/LIBS why is everything about race?? It's Obama, Schumer, and Cuomo who want Patterson to resign!! Quit the nonsense. You dems are just a trainwreck. Now we have the race police coming to the rescue. what a joke.

    March 5, 2010 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  13. Dar

    Why cant a person stand on their own two feet?
    Why cant Sharpton see that he is the one that makes this look racist?
    When will Sharpton come to the aid of a white person?
    And Sharpton says he isnt racist, BS, he is one of the worst.

    March 5, 2010 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  14. Willy Brown

    The NY Gov. is getting eaten up by his own democrat party but they let good ole Charlie Rangel just walk on by.

    March 5, 2010 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  15. Monkey wrench

    They supported Obama and that says it all, they'll support anyone that is of a color other than white, and Al Sharpton is the epitome of what a greazy race pimp is!

    March 5, 2010 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  16. Obama = WORST president EVER

    Standing behind a crooked incompetent moron because he's black. Just what MLK intended, right?

    March 5, 2010 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  17. Illusions

    Based on everything I've heard, this is the right decision.

    I for one have tired of innuedo and rumor being enough to get in the way of a lifelong public servant doing their job.

    Raising red herrings has become a strategy by the opposition ... even when what they raise is weak at best.

    Given all the politicians that have attended sporting events, this one is weak.

    Republican Senator Ensign paid off his mistress, her husband and got her son a cushy job. He didn't resign. Republican Governor Sanford literally went "south of the border" cheated on his wife, used state resources to pay for travel and told the world he was hiking the Appalacian trial. Sarah Palin abused her authority as governor to have an Alaskan state trooper fired yet nobody called for her to resign.

    Before all the black bashing begins by those whites that think they see raced-based support of Patterson, they need to consider what course of action they advocated ... and how strongly they spoke out .... on these other clear cut cases of improper behavior by politicians.

    March 5, 2010 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  18. Brian

    Wow. How really pathetic. Somehow I can't see them doing this for a non black person. We call this racism.

    March 5, 2010 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  19. Fair Minded People

    Is it only black folks that see the lunacy in these calls for Patterson to resign or do some white, brown, yellow folks also?

    I think this headline gives fodder to the closet race-baiters out there.

    Bottom line is that this man has been under "manufactured" pressure from the moment he stepped into office after Spitzer was caught with his prostitute(s). Maybe that is what those folks see.

    March 5, 2010 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  20. jules sand-perkins

    I am a white man who supports Govenor Paterson 100%. It's not a racial issue, it's political–mostly flack from his own party.

    March 5, 2010 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
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