The book, “Black, Blind & in Charge,” exposes the inside chaos of Spitzer’s 2008 resignation.
As his governorship collapsed around his ankles like limp black socks, Spitzer shut down, Paterson recounts, delegating to staff the hard work of breaking the embarrassing news of his exploits.
Paterson reveals that Spitzer was not even the one to tell him that he was about to resign in disgrace.
Instead, he got a call from Spitzer’s top aide, Richard Baum, who told him in a hushed and barely audible voice that the governor had been nabbed in a prostitution sting case.
“I would learn six months later when I had a conversation with him that the reason [Baum] was whispering was that he was in the bathroom of Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s Fifth Avenue house,” Paterson recalls.
Baum confided that he had pressed Spitzer to call Paterson but the disgraced governor had demurred.
“`Don’t worry about him. We’ll type something up for him to read,’” Spitzer told Baum, according to Paterson.
“Baum knew I couldn’t read anything that was typed, particularly on that short notice. I needed time for memorization,” said Paterson, who became the first black governor in New York State history, and who is legally blind.
His first call concerning the Spitzer bombshell was to his father and mentor, Basil Paterson, who advised him to immediately call other top New York political leaders to avoid being accused of keeping them out of the loop.
“How do you explain a sex scandal to Hillary Clinton,” Paterson mused.
He left an urgent message with Clinton, who was on the campaign trail running for president in 2008.
Clinton called him back immediately and he told her Spitzer was about to resign. She asked why. When he told her that Spitzer was with a prostitute, he said there was a long, awkward pause.
“You know, a prostitute, did you hear that?” Paterson repeated.
Another long pause.
Clinton, who endured humiliating sex scandals involving her husband, former President Bill Clinton, finally broke the silence and said, “Oh, what a world!”
Clinton said she and Bill would be totally supportive of Paterson and emphasized “there is nothing I could go through that they hadn’t already been through and I felt relieved,” Paterson writes.
Other highlights of the forthcoming book:
— Paterson said his chief of staff Charles O’Bryne informed him that then-New York Secretary of State Lorraine Cortes Vasquez said she had to certify Paterson as the new governor and wouldn’t do so until she had a meeting with him. She is now the city Commissioner for the Department of Aging and serves on the MTA board.
Paterson, who felt that Cortes-Vasquez was trying to exact patronage or some other concession from him, relayed a message through O’Bryne that she could tell the world that she wouldn’t certify him. He also said as the new governor he would ask all the top aides to Spitzer to submit letters of resignation and that “I can’t wait to accept hers.”
After smoothing things over, Paterson writes, Cortes-Vasquez became one of his most loyal and able confidantes.
— Paterson met privately with then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg in his office in the state Capitol, just before he was going to give his first speech as governor. But Paterson had a massive headache.
Bloomberg told him to sit on the couch and get some rest and “pull yourself together.” The mayor said he would conduct some business in the governor’s office while Paterson rested and assured him no one would enter the office.
“That was the most magnanimous gesture I received in the last week,” the accidental governor said.
— Muhammad Ali had a then-new state senator Paterson march with him at the front of the parade against apartheid in South Africa.
Earlier, Ali had complained that Paterson did not recognize him when they shook hands. When the boxing great was informed that Paterson was blind, he went over and embraced him and asked that he march with him.
Other older and more veteran pols muttered about the young Paterson being at the front of the line.
“Well,” Ali says, “I was the youngest heavyweight champion of the world. You should be here.”
Paterson’s life is less stressful now. He has time to take guitar lessons.