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The Question

September 29, 2010

After Spitzer, after Paterson, and after Paladino were all scrutinized for
extramarital activities, how could it be inappropriate and unfair for
reporters to ask Andrew Cuomo the question: Were you faithful to your wife?

Hasn’t this been established as a legitimate line of inquiry?

For better or worse, it most assuredly has. And that makes Fred Dicker’s
assault of Carl Paladino last night all the more offensive.

That’s right, it was Dicker’s fault completely. We were at the Sagamore and
saw it happen. It was Dicker who got in Paladino’s face. It was Dicker who
jabbed his finger in Paladino’s chest. It was Dicker who pushed Michael
Caputo when he tried to step between the two men.

Dicker wanted a confrontation. Dicker was goading Paladino. Dicker, as
Caputo said, was out of line. Way out of line.

But back to the underlying point. Is Paladino crazy for pointing out a
disparity in media coverage? He has been grilled about his personal life,
but not Cuomo. Why is that?

Cuomo’s people have been urging reporters to delve into Paladino’s
background. Is it unfair and outrageous for Paladino to return the favor?

Is it a meaningful distinction to say that Cuomo, himself, hasn’t done the
dirty work, just his people? We don’t think so. There is no distinction
between the principal and the operatives on a matter like this, and the fact
is that Cuomo’s people have been making personal attacks on Paladino from
the beginning.

And Dicker has done their bidding. Try to deny that. Try to defend Dicker’s
objectivity in this race. You can’t. He’s been promoting Cuomo’s candidacy
for months.

Last night, Dicker took it on himself to defend Cuomo’s honor against what
he said was “a smear.” But that is not his responsibility. Dicker’s
responsibility, and the responsibility of other reporters, is to apply an
equal level of scrutiny to the candidates.

Their responsibility is to ask the question.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Mark keister permalink
    September 29, 2010 11:12 PM

    Wunner how many RumNCokes that was . . .

  2. September 30, 2010 9:37 AM

    While I do not always agree with Mr. Dicker and sometimes take umberance with his methodology he in no way was either wrong in asking the question nor wrong in continuing to press the issue. If Mr. Palladino wants to make an accusation and has the proof to back it up the proof should be produced at the same time as the accusation. Otherwise we go further and further into the gutter. I don’t know what you guys are watching in making the statements in your column but I believe that any rational, fair minded person would think that Mr. Palladino and his campaign manager were WAY over the top and VERY scary.

  3. Mark permalink
    September 30, 2010 2:53 PM

    Let’s take this point by point. And do so with the premise that the writer in question finds Fredric “Some Democrat Whose Name I Can Never Remember Kicked The Snot Out of” U. Dicker a repulsive figure. Also, I don’t work for Andrew Cuomo, Fred Dicker, The New York Post, Democrats, Republicans, a political party, or anyone with a vested interest in this race. Just been around, seen a lot, and know how to do research. A pity that you seem to be lacking in the latter of these skills.

    Point by point.

    “After Spitzer, after Paterson, and after Paladino were all scrutinized for extramarital activities, how could it be inappropriate and unfair for reporters to ask Andrew Cuomo the question: Were you faithful to your wife? “Hasn’t this been established as a legitimate line of inquiry?”

    No. Mr. Paladino has offered no proof of Mr. Cuomo’s alleged adultery. Mr. Paladino, meanwhile, has ample proof – a love child – indicating adultery of his own. This writer could assert that the “concerned professionals” at NT2 are rumored to be having repeated sexual liaisons with a Shetland pony. That, of course, would be unsubstantiated trash. Were anyone to make such a statement, they would not only be in potential violation of libel and slander laws, they would also be acting in extremely poor taste – and performing no viable service on behalf of the public.

    If Mr. Paladino has substantive proof of such allegations against Mr. Cuomo – substantive proof being videotapes, bank records, and/or the sworn testimony of Mr. Cuomo’s alleged sexual partner(s) – Mr. Paladino should produce said information immediately for review by the voting public. That’s just common sense.

    “For better or worse, it most assuredly has. And that makes Fred Dicker’s assault of Carl Paladino last night all the more offensive.”

    With your first sentence, I disagree for the basic, direct, common sense reasons listed above. With your second sentence, I respectfully submit that “more offensive” defines Mr. Dicker and Alan Chartock, his Albany-based brother by another mother. Said term “more offensive” also can – and should – be used to describe the actions and intentions of a fair number of lobbyists, lawmakers, and leg-breakers in and around state government.

    “That’s right, it was Dicker’s fault completely. We were at the Sagamore and
    saw it happen. It was Dicker who got in Paladino’s face. It was Dicker who
    jabbed his finger in Paladino’s chest. It was Dicker who pushed Michael
    Caputo when he tried to step between the two men.”

    Mr. Dicker was at fault, sure, but not completely. Mr. Paladino and his pals wanted a fight. Mr. Paladino and Mr. Caputo displayed the tactics and antics – sadly – that a B-grade Hollywood movie director attributes to members of the Italian-American community, circa 1950, and/or the robber baron/real estate mogul of the present day. A child learns from a young age that when confronted by a pest or irritant, the most suitable response is to ignore said pest or irritant. As such, the pest or irritant, unable to get a veritable “rise” out of its target, will quickly become discouraged and disappear. This “junkyard dog” mentality may serve Mr. Paladino quite well in the business world; in the public arena, such tactics make him look at worst unhinged and easily flustered and at best petty and weak.

    “Dicker wanted a confrontation. Dicker was goading Paladino. Dicker, as Caputo said, was out of line. Way out of line.”

    Of course Dicker wanted a confrontation. Do you know nothing about state political reporting prior to 2010? Check out this bon mot from 1987:

    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B0DE4D71231F935A25753C1A961948260&scp=1&sq=Fredric+U.+Dicker&pagewanted=print

    October 16, 1987
    Post Reporter Is Shoved By Top Aide to Speaker
    By JEFFREY SCHMALZ, Special to the New York Times

    ALBANY, Oct. 15— A reporter was repeatedly shoved, then knocked to the floor today by a top aide to Assembly Speaker Mel Miller as the reporter tried to question the aide about possible improprieties involving the Assembly payroll.

    The reporter, Fredric U. Dicker, the 43-year-old Albany bureau chief of The New York Post, said that, once on the floor, he was kicked two or three times by the aide, Norman Adler. Mr. Dicker, who has been bureau chief five years, did not appear to be seriously hurt but visited a doctor today, complaining of back pain. …

    Videotape of the incident, which was made by WRGB, clearly shows Mr. Dicker being shoved to the floor by Mr. Adler. But because of the camera angle, it is not clear from the tape that Mr. Dicker was kicked.

    However, the WRGB reporter, Judy Sanders, said that once Mr. Dicker was on the floor, Mr. Adler repeatedly “jabbed him” with his foot and ”was shoving him with his foot.”

    ”Adler,” Ms. Sanders continued, ”had him down on the floor and said, ‘You’d better protect your private parts, Fred.’ ”

    Or this one:

    http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/news/2005/01/13/2005-01-13_pol_blasts_postie_as__slime_.html

    Pol blasts Postie as ‘slime’ over baby story
    By Joe Mahoney
    New York Daily News
    Thursday, January 13th 2005, 6:43AM

    State Democratic Party Chairman Denny Farrell angrily confronted a New York Post staffer on the radio yesterday – calling him “a slime” and “a bully” for trying to turn his joy over the impending birth of his child into a “scandal.”

    The stunned Postie, Fred Dicker, tried to defend his attempts to dig up information about Farrell’s personal life by injecting race into the argument.

    “You’re an elected official in a community that’s been troubled with out-of-wedlock births,” Dicker told the Democrat, who represents West Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood.

    The bitter exchange on Dicker’s live radio program began when Farrell made an unexpected appearance.

    “I just came in to let your radio listeners know what a piece of slime that you are,” he told Dicker. “You’re a bully.”

    When Dicker tried to knock Farrell off the air, the pol told him, “You’re a chicken.”

    Farrell then pressed into Dicker’s own personal life, shouting, “When did you start shacking up?” – a reference to the fact the unmarried Dicker lives with Jean Miller, a former Pataki administration official.

    Dicker shouted back, “I’m not a public official.”

    MR. DICKER lives for confrontation. And Mr. Paladino and Mr. Caputo gave Mr. Dicker exactly the confrontation on which he has feasted for decades. So blame Mr. Dicker for his antics. But also slap Mr. Paladino and Mr. Caputo upside the head for not better knowing the landscape and the players in the game.

    “But back to the underlying point. Is Paladino crazy for pointing out a disparity in media coverage? He has been grilled about his personal life, but not Cuomo. Why is that?”

    One cannot write about Mr. Paladino’s mental state unless one is both trained in psychiatry and is allowed to examine Mr. Paladino over a period of weeks. So let’s leave that one to the would-be and wanna-be shrinks on bar stools and the like.

    Mr. Paladino is the man with the child born out of wedlock and the wife still in tow. Mr. Paladino is the man with the intriguing and/or repulsive history of emails. Mr. Cuomo may be many things, among them boring and a beneficiary of lineage, but he fails to have any documented history of either of these things.

    When Mr. Cuomo divorced his then-wife Ms. Kennedy, it was quite common knowledge in political and media circles – and reported thus – that it was Ms. Kennedy – and not Mr. Cuomo – who had been unfaithful during their marriage.

    Let’s be logical here. Do you really believe that the Kennedys would allow a second-generation Italian-American like Mr. Cuomo to come out with the high moral ground on such a story, especially one involving adultery, unless said tale were both (a) true and (b) muted so as to limit the exact extent of Ms. Kennedy’s adulterous ways? The Kennedys have the money, power, New York-D.C. media connections, and political oomph. No way in creation they let Mr. Cuomo come off as faithful and one of their own come off as the adulterous one – unless the said instances of adultery were so rampant, cheap, and/or scandalous that strategy deemed it better for their brood to take the small, short-term hit and then quietly move onward and upward.

    “Cuomo’s people have been urging reporters to delve into Paladino’s background. Is it unfair and outrageous for Paladino to return the favor?”

    First sentence, quite correct. Second sentence indicative both of what was expected from Mr. Paladino and of the general tenor and tactics of his campaign.

    “Is it a meaningful distinction to say that Cuomo, himself, hasn’t done the dirty work, just his people? We don’t think so. There is no distinction between the principal and the operatives on a matter like this, and the fact is that Cuomo’s people have been making personal attacks on Paladino from the beginning.”

    If you wish to assert that it has been Mr. Cuomo and not Mr. Paladino whose campaign has emphasized attacks of a personal nature over substance, good luck to you. All campaigns dish dirt. That’s Politics 101. Any ninth-grade social studies student knows this. Mr. Paladino, unfortunately, has chosen to mire himself in a mud bowl of his own making – adultery and email divisions. Again, Mr. Cuomo is many things – too wonkish, still cleaning up the scraps from his attack on his fellow state Democrats a few years back, and a product of nepotism.

    Most of all, Mr. Cuomo, however, is bland and about as interesting as the writing on the outside of a roll of wrapped toilet paper. He’s a lousy orator, not good on the stump, a sub par interview, a clumsy conversationalist, poor with the kissing babies or fist-pounding shticks, and generally comes off as a cross between a wills and probate attorney and an actuary. Their just isn’t much personal/moral controversy in the guy’s game; Mr. Paladino, meanwhile, is a volcano about to explode wherever he goes and laden with a history of personal and moral misdeeds. Mr. Caputo’s tax history, alone, leaves much to be desired. These are not attacks – these are facts.

    “And Dicker has done their bidding. Try to deny that. Try to defend Dicker’s objectivity in this race. You can’t. He’s been promoting Cuomo’s candidacy for months.”

    Ben Smith, now at Politico, wrote this 2005 piece, “Undisputed King Of Albany Press Is Fred U. Dicker”, about Mr. Dicker while working at The New York Observer.

    http://www.observer.com/node/50300

    Nut graphs right up top. Wrote Mr. Smith:

    Mr. Dicker, who is about to turn 61, has enraged so many people in Albany it’s surprising that nobody has used physical violence against him-hold on, actually that did happen, back in 1987.

    “I see myself,” Mr. Dicker said judiciously, “as being an equal-opportunity prick.”

    *****

    Or this bit about Mr. Adler:

    “Post Albany Chief Beaten,” was the Post’s front-page headline the next day, with an image of Mr. Dicker’s bald pate and Mr. Adler towering over him.

    “He has refined the art of being obnoxious in the search of information,” Mr. Adler, now a prominent lobbyist, told The Observer recently. “That’s why he ended up on the ground.”

    Mr. Adler lost his job as a result of the incident. Mr. Dicker reprinted the Post’s cover on T-shirts and sold them around the Capitol to cover printing costs.

    *****

    Mr. Dicker has gone after Cons before:

    Not everyone, however, is so easygoing about Mr. Dicker’s criticisms. Pierre Rinfret, a Republican who ran a disastrous campaign against Mr. Cuomo in 1990, has a Web page comparing Mr. Dicker to Josef Goebbels. A prominent Albany figure compared Mr. Dicker to Joseph McCarthy-and insisted on remaining nameless because “he can ruin careers.” And Mr. Dicker has a testy relationship with the rest of the Albany press corps, whose members he sometimes attacks on his radio show, in violation of the press’ tacit nonaggression pact.

    “He’s not a fellow who wants to be liked,” said a former Post colleague, George Arzt.

    *****

    And were Mr. Dicker to burst into flames, it’s quite possible a fair number of his media brethren wouldn’t rush over to urinate on him to extinguish the blaze. (See Joan Crawford v. Bette Davis.)

    His competitors blend an admiration for his scoops with a suspicion of his methods and a resentment of his open disdain for some of them.

    “Fred’s phaser is always set on ‘kill,'” said Jordan Rau, Newsday’s former Albany bureau chief and a sometime antagonist of the Post columnist, who added that he admired much of Mr. Dicker’s work. “Albany is a bully’s paradise, because everyone there only respects strength and toughness, and Fred is the bully’s bully.”

    Others question his accuracy. Mr. Dicker’s reliance on anonymous sources and his sources’ inevitable agendas means that he’s sometimes spectacularly wrong. One Albany insider actually catalogued all of Mr. Dicker’s weekly columns for the last three years and checked his predictions, giving him a success rate of just over 66 percent.

    *****

    Mr. Dicker was George Pataki’s media filter.

    For years, Mr. Dicker was taken for a Republican hatchet man (despite his Democratic Party registration, which he later switched to “unaffiliated”). His longtime readers recall that back in 1993, he was among the first to notice an obscure State Senator from Westchester, George Pataki. Mr. Dicker’s Republican sources were the best-he had known the party’s chairman, William Powers, when he was a local reporter in the Capitol district and Mr. Powers was a local politician in Rensselaer County.

    “Dicker created Pataki-him and [former U.S. Senator] Al D’Amato,” said a former Post editor, Stuart Marques. “We would sit in the newsroom and say, ‘Dicker is doing another story about this Pataki guy?’ But he was right.”

    *****

    Then, of course, Mr. Dicker went after Mr. Pataki and Zenia The Warrior Princess, who makes Mr. Dicker look like Mary Poppins.

    Mr. Pataki beat Mr. Cuomo in 1994, and his staff became great fans of Mr. Dicker. They expected their admiration to be returned.

    They were wrong.

    “They acted like I was supposed to be an arm of the administration,” Mr. Dicker said with disgust.

    Early in his first year in office, Mr. Pataki and his combative communications director, Zenia Mucha, posted a guard at the entrance to the Governor’s offices in the Capitol, ending reporters’ free access to the state’s chief executive and his staff. Mr. Dicker’s response was
    apoplectic. Now, more than a decade later, Mr. Dicker still is angry. He says secrecy is Mr. Pataki’s defining trait.

    “I have never seen the degree of secrecy that we have in this government,” he said. “The hostility to the press, the unrelenting suspicion of the press, the lack of any respect for the Fourth Estate-it’s like they’re turning the clock back to before Watergate.”

    *****

    Get the idea? Mr. Dicker’s chief and only interest is Mr. Dicker. Everyone in Albany knows this. Mr. Paladino and Mr. Caputo either did not or chose to ignore this fact and believe that they could intimidate Mr. Dicker. They, like many before them, failed – either due to foolishness, ignorance, or hubris.

    *****

    Last night, Dicker took it on himself to defend Cuomo’s honor against what he said was “a smear.” But that is not his responsibility. Dicker’s responsibility, and the responsibility of other reporters, is to apply an equal level of scrutiny to the candidates.

    Their responsibility is to ask the question.

    Quite the contrary here. Mr. Dicker simply asked Mr. Paladino to deliver the facts behind his allegations. The best Mr. Paladino could do was some feeble line about providing this information “at the appropriate time”, a few F-bombs, and a quasi-threat. Mr. Dicker gets national television gigs, probably a book contract, pats on the back (and a few knives), and more dinero. Mr. Paladino, meanwhile, looks like a baseless bomb thrower, a thug, a political neophyte and someone more suited to handle security at a gin mill than to handle any sort of leadership position.

    Worst of all, Mr. Paladino made Mr. Dicker look good and even a little sympathetic. Everyone who has ever dealt with Mr. Dicker knows that the man is among the most unscrupulous, self-serving, arrogant manure-stirrers in journalism today – and Mr. Paladino’s antics actually gave Mr. Dicker exactly what he wanted.

    Face time and bucks.

    Mr. Dicker doesn’t give a damn about Mr. Cuomo, Mr. Paladino, or New York state. Mr. Dicker cares only about one thing:

    Fredric “Norm Adler Kicked The Snot Out Of” U. Dicker.

  4. societax permalink
    October 1, 2010 12:58 AM

    “After Spitzer, after Paterson, and after Paladino were all scrutinized for extramarital activities, how could it be inappropriate and unfair for reporters to ask Andrew Cuomo the question: Were you faithful to your wife? * * * Hasn’t this been established as a legitimate line of inquiry? * * * For better or worse, it most assuredly has.”

    It most assuredly has not.

    Spitzer engaged in criminal activities — financial structuring — in an effort to cover up the fact that he frequented a prostitute. (Perhaps Republican operative Roger Stone encouraged the story along in the press.)

    Paterson came out of the gate announcing marital infidelity (and had a well-know reputation for partying).

    Since April we’ve known about Paladino’s extramarital child. (The NYDaily New doesn’t provide a source, but Lazio’s people leaked it?)

    That track record of public personalities embarassing themselves does not convert the hypothetical possibility of an affair into a “legitimate line of inquiry.” Suppose Fred Dicker asks four politicians if they’ve ever had sex with goat. Three of the four answer. Do we now have a “legitimate line of inquiry” about whether the fourth politician had sex with a goat? And the failure to answer is a fundamental flaw in the candidate’s character? It reminds me of the old political gotcha question: “When did you stop beating your spouse?”

    If Paladino has evidence that Cuomo engaged in an extramarital affair, he should “man up” and provide the evidence, or at least leak the details like everyone else does. If he doesn’t have any evidence, he should stop slandering Cuomo. There are plenty of good reasons not to vote for either of them without this bull-shite.

Trackbacks

  1. News today | Vote Up! - Covering the Elections in Upstate New York | Vote Up NY
  2. Where I Conclude That Paladino is Full of It | Capital District Perspective
  3. Wake Up Call | 000031.196998.com

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