Gov. David Paterson on Monday tried to distance himself from critical remarks about Caroline Kennedy that were leaked to the media by a person close to the governor after Kennedy abruptly withdrew from Senate consideration.
Paterson denied any role in the leak over unproven allegations that Kennedy had problems with taxes, payment of a nanny, and in her marriage. The leak, provided on the condition of anonymity, came Friday morning, hours after Kennedy suddenly pulled her name out of consideration for the appointment to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The daughter of slain President John F. Kennedy had been poised to take the Senate seat once held by her uncle, Robert F. Kennedy.
Paterson selected Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand instead.
Calls it gossip
On Monday, Paterson called the leaked information gossip and said there was no proof of the accusations in an extensive questionnaire he required of all candidates that included questions about their taxes, any criminal background and personal finances. He has refused to release the blank or completed questionnaires.
On Friday, The Associated Press reported that the state tax department found no problem with Kennedy's taxes. There was no evidence to support the possible "nannygate" problem or rumors that her marriage had problems. In interviews in December, Kennedy denied any problems.
The leak was "cheap, dirty politics," New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday. The mayor supported Kennedy's effort and is an important ally for Paterson.
"I have no idea about her personal life. But that should not have been," Bloomberg said. "It is as good as an example of cheap dirty politics as you could ever find. And I thought it was reprehensible. I have no idea where it came from."
At a news conference Monday, Paterson condemned the leak.
"I'm denying it, but there have been leaks coming from my administration during this entire process of choosing a senator," Paterson said to reporters. "As you said, this is a pretty serious thing and one that I would condemn for whoever was gossiping about the reason that Ms. Kennedy would have withdrawn from the race."
Asked if he would investigate the leak, Paterson seemed to misunderstand the question and responded: "I don't think there's any public interest that's served in finding out why someone chose to take a different course in life."
Asked again, he answered: "I would love to know who is responsible, but at this point I was unable to determine that."
Paterson took a pounding in the press over the weekend and two polls charted the governor's slipping popularity.
'Simply a goofball'
The New York Times' Maureen Dowd referred to Paterson as "chuckle-headed."
"Governor Paterson is simply a goofball," she wrote. "The governor made a crude attempt to control the spin — a childish `You can't quit, I'm firing you' power play."
In The Daily News, columnist Mike Lupica wrote: Paterson "loved that he was a career nobody no longer. Look at me, I'm governing."
"And the citizens of his state are supposed to believe he can somehow do something about a $15.4 billion deficit. He doesn't have the chops for that any more than the rest of the clown college in Albany."
Kennedy's spokesman Stefan Friedman didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Monday. But last week, after the leak surfaced, he said: "Caroline Kennedy withdrew her name for consideration from the United States Senate for personal reasons. Any statements to the contrary are false. The governor set up a fair and deliberative selection process. This kind of mudslinging demeans that process and all those involved."
He didn't accuse any specific person of slinging the mud.