Feature

David Paterson's phantom scandal: A timeline

How a rumor about New York Gov. David Paterson went from Twitter to the front page — and stayed there

After nearly a week of rampant speculation about "bombshell" revelations in The New York Times that would force his resignation, New York Gov. David Paterson said Wednesday that the "outrageous rumors" swirling around him are false and racially motivated. (Watch David Paterson address the rumors.) He also expressed outrage at the Times for leaving him in the impossible situation of trying to respond to rumors about a rumor. How did the coverage of this so-far non-existant scandal get so out of control? A concise timeline:

Jan. 18The first allegations are floatedThe New York Post sets the stage by reporting in a gossip column that "Paterson was spotted nuzzling, neck-kissing and cooing like a smitten schoolboy with a pretty young woman — not his wife — in a New Jersey steakhouse."

Jan. 30The "closet" rumor arrives Another New York Post gossip item says a state trooper inadvertently walked in on Paterson hugging a woman — both were fully clothed — in a closet at the governor's mansion. Early in his tenure, Paterson admitted that he and his wife had both had affairs, but he denies the new reports.

Feb. 5Is the New York Times about to legitimize the "scandal"?Blogs go into a frenzy after reporters, including one at The New York Observer, start tweeting a rumor that The New York Times is preparing an article that will include damaging revelations about Paterson. The Business Insider says the Times will "Spitzerize" Paterson, a reference to the downfall of his predecessor, Eliot Spitzer, in a prostitution scandal.

Feb. 7Paterson slams resignation rumors The Business Insider ratchets up the tension by reporting that the Times story will be published on Feb. 8 and Paterson will promptly resign. Paterson aides say there is "zero truth" to the rumors, and that Paterson won't step down.

Feb. 8The New York Times confirms it's writing...somethingThe Times story is not published, although the paper says it's working on a Paterson profile. Paterson calls the continuing speculation in print "callous and sleazy." Bloggers make guesses: It's a sex scandal! It's corruption! It's nothing at all!

Feb. 9Paterson lashes out at Times, which denies responsibilityGov. David Paterson says the Times interviewed him and asked no questions about a scandal. He writes a searing letter to the Times, expressing outrage at the paper's failure to discourage the speculation. A Times spokesperson says the paper isn't responsible for what others write. Paterson says the only way he'll leave office is if he loses this fall's election or dies.

Feb. 10Paterson is history, anyway, says The AtlanticIf current polls are any indication, The Atlantic reports, Paterson will lose in November regardless — given that he's trailing both prospective Democratic challenger Andrew Cuomo "by an average of 62.1% to 21.1%" and possible Republican rival, Rudy Giuliani, by an average split of "56% to 34.6%."

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SEE MORE OF THE WEEK'S COVERAGE OF DAVID PATERSON:David Paterson's scandal: 3 theoriesVideo: David Paterson addresses rumorsSNL's Paterson parody

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