David Paterson Story in the Times Undermined by Its Own Foreplay

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In what may be the greatest hoax since the Balloon Boy didn't take that cross-country helium flight, the Great Times Probe of Governor Paterson is out and - shockingly - it turns out that the tabloid hype was just that.

If not for the massive foreplay that preceded it, the Times story would be deeply disturbing: One of the governor's closest aides and advisers has allegedly been involved in at least three domestic violence incidents, one of them last Halloween when a girlfriend's costume was torn off and police were called. This was two weeks after Paterson opened a statewide campaign against women beaters, but the governor gave David Johnson - aka DJ - a hefty raise and promotion. More recently, the gov has cheered on the expulsion of State Senator Hiram Monserrate for his own girlfriend-battering incident. There was also a teenage bust for crack sales - record sealed, or supposed to be.

That said, this sure ain't the story a lot of New Yorkers had led themselves to expect.

That's largely the fault of the overactive tabloid/cyber-news gene that's now so deeply implanted in us all. It also got no small boost from Paterson himself, who loudly insisted over the past two weeks that he was the victim of relentless Timesian bloodhounds poring over his traces.

But the Times did itself no favors by refusing to knock down some of the more ridiculous assumptions about its work, or even to stand up for its right to pursue a story without having to explain to the rest of the world what it was doing. You also have to wonder if it would have carried this story top-of-the-fold on Page One had it not been for the Great Expectations.

There is more to come, including an expected Paterson profile, but it's likely that this is the sharpest arrow the paper has in this particular quiver. For his part, Paterson issued a statement at 1 a.m. this morning saying that he has always believed in giving young offenders a second chance and declaring himself "proud" of his pal DJ.

The upside here is that the Albany press corps can now get back to a real story: Aqueduct.


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