NYT: We're not working on a Paterson scandal story; Update: New scandal breaking

And that in itself may become a mini-scandal, at least in media circles.  Rumors echoed so loudly that the New York Times would publish a hit piece on a personal scandal involving Governor David Paterson that Paterson issued an angry denunciation of the Times over the weekend.  Today, the Gray Lady says, “Who, us?” (via the Daily Caller):

Albany — long a place of scandal, the rumor of scandal and the echoing talk about the rumor of scandal — has had a week a bit unlike any other. Newspapers, blogs, reputable outfits and fringe gossip sites have worked themselves into a frenzy about a purported article in The New York Times that would be so scandalous as to compel Gov. David A. Paterson to resign.

It has often been a self-feeding, self-referential frenzy, and it has managed to get Mr. Paterson pretty worked up, too. He’s been asked questions by reporters about a story the reporters don’t know exists, and he has denied rumors about what that story that he doesn’t know exists might say. …

Tuesday evening, Joe Sexton, The Times’s Metropolitan Editor, said: “Obviously we are not responsible for what other news organizations are reporting. It’s not coming from The Times.”

Not quite a categorical denial, but enough on the record to make Sexton and the Times look bad if they drop a scandal story on Paterson the next couple of days.  The paper met with Paterson to review the rumors, apparently assuring the embattled governor that nothing was immediately forthcoming.  Not appeased, Paterson sharply criticized the Times for not addressing the rumors earlier, calling their silence over most of the last week “appalling.”

Does a newspaper have a duty to squelch rumors of this kind when other media organizations report them?  If the rumors remain stuck in the blogosphere, probably not; after all, they can’t do much about blogospheric hysteria in any case.  When other media outlets begin reporting it, though, one might think that a clarification is in order, especially if it’s attached to an upcoming primary fight and the possible resignation of a sitting governor — and perhaps especially with Paterson, who would have been the second New York governor in a row to quit the job.

Now, the question will be how this rumor started, who fed it to whom, and why.  It’s no secret that Democrats would like to see Paterson withdraw from the primary to allow Andrew Cuomo unhindered access to the nomination — but it’s also no secret that Cuomo won’t need to spend much money to dislodge the very unpopular incumbent, either.  Paterson has also run afoul of the White House over the past year, although again, it’s hard to imagine that they see Paterson as any real threat worth making this kind of effort.  Perhaps the Times would want to investigate this thread to see the motives behind it, if any.

Update: WPIX-TV breaks a story today about a new scandal involving Paterson, but it’s not of a personal nature:

PIX News has learned that federal prosecutors are investigating Governor David Paterson’s awarding of a lucrative contract to a politically connected group to run a gaming center at Aqueduct Raceway.

The embattled Governor who appears to have dodged the bullet of rumors and innuendo that had been circulating over a purported “bombshell” story being prepared by the New York Times, is now part of a probe by the Eastern District U.S. Attorney’s office in Brooklyn.

Two reliable sources confirm the investigation is “very fresh,” but could not say precisely what it is prosecutors are looking at other than questions about public integrity.

Paterson has been under fire by members of his own staff and legislative leaders for awarding the contract to Aqueduct Entertainment Group, a group that includes former Congressman Rev Floyd Flake, whose political support the Governor had been aggressively seeking.

Unfortunately for Cuomo, that’s the kind of scandal that could damage Democrats across the board in the fall. (via AmeriKeith on Twitter)