The state's new governor revealed Tuesday that he had affairs with several women, including a state employee. The confession came a day after he took over from former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who was driven from office amid a prostitution scandal.
Gov. David Paterson said the affairs happened during a rough patch in his marriage, and that the employee did not work for him. He insisted he did not advance her career, and that no campaign or state money was spent on the affairs.
"I do not feel I have broken my commitment to the citizens of New York state," Paterson said at a news conference with his wife, Michelle Paige Paterson.
Paterson, a Harlem Democrat, admitted an affair in an interview with the New York Daily News on Monday after he was sworn in, but his comments Tuesday indicate the couple's fidelity problems went deeper than he first acknowledged. He is not having an affair now, he said.
The Patersons said they both had affairs during a time when their marriage was headed toward divorce. But they admitted the infidelity, sought counseling and have built a stronger marriage and family.
"We dealt with it as a family," his wife said. "A marriage has peaks and valleys ... no marriage is perfect."
"I think we have a marriage like many Americans, maybe even like many of you," the governor told reporters. "Elected officials are really just reflections of the people we represent."
Paterson said the affairs took place since about 1999, and one extended into his term as Senate minority leader, which began in 2002. He said he didn't reveal the affairs during his time as a senator, Senate minority leader or lieutenant governor because no one had asked him and he came forward because he didn't want the rumors to cloud his governorship.
"I didn't want to be blackmailed," he said.
Paterson, who is legally blind and the state's first black governor, ascended to office after Spitzer's resignation last week amid allegations he hired a high-priced prostitute from an escort service. Federal prosecutors are still deciding whether to pursue charges against Spitzer, a Democrat who was elected in 2006 with a historic share of the vote.
Assembly Democratic Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, said Tuesday he doesn't believe Paterson was weakened by the disclosure.
"This Albany press corps was in a feeding frenzy, looking for anything they could do to find it," Silver said. "And basically what David Paterson did was say, 'Stop bothering people. Here's the story. And that's it."'
Republican Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, who is next in the line of succession to the governor's office should something happen to Paterson, said Paterson's personal life is Paterson's business only as long as it doesn't interfere with how he governs.