Murdoch jabs at Guv's blindness
Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corporation owns Fox Broadcasting, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, raised eyebrows Tuesday for off-the-cuff remarks about a certain governor's physical impairment.
It came during a panel talk before the Journal's elite "CEO Council." "Look at New York State, it's unbelievable," said the 78-year-old media tycoon. "The Congress, the state Assembly, and Senate are totally incompetent. The governor," Murdoch continued on videotape, shaking his head, "is a very nice, honest man, who's blind, and can't read Braille, and doesn't really know what's going on."
The "Gawker" Web site, which hurls cyber-snark at all things News Corp., reacted in real time. Its writers noted that Murdoch had been finessing a question about how to encourage civil discourse rather than knee-jerk populism. "One way," Gawker suggested, "would be to not pay people millions of dollars to pursue bizarre conspiracy theories and call the first black president a racist - but that's not the Murdoch way! No, Murdoch's slurred, barely coherent answer blamed politicians, including Paterson."
Not that Murdoch said anything here that doesn't get speculated privately, and sometimes publicly, around the state Capitol. The foibles of Albany lawmakers are famous. So are the shortcomings of the Paterson administration. And so are the top guy's limitations and challenges.
But just to be fair and balanced, we did have, as president for the previous eight years, a socially privileged ex-substance-abuser who, although he could see well enough, struck many as not having read too much.
Speaking of bizarre conspiracy theories, let's concoct one of our own. Just for fun, try this for a preposterous talking point: The right-leaning senior Murdoch has come under the Svengali-like influence of a pro-labor-union Democratic state legislator!
After all, Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) was quoted back in August saying of Paterson:
"We live in a digital age now, with e-mailing and BlackBerrying. He is not able to do that because of his visual impairment. . . . Also, he does not read Braille. He has people reading newspapers to him. He listens to tapes of staffers briefing him. All that takes an enormous amount of time. . . . As a result, he is not able to respond on the fly the way [ex-Gov. Eliot] Spitzer or even [ex-Gov. George] Pataki could. In some ways, I think that has hindered him in spite of everything he's accomplished in life."
Perhaps his disability gave him a "disengaged" management style, she said.
All that came as part of the reaction to Paterson's suggestion in a radio interview that he had race-based political problems. He'd cited other African-Americans in elected office under fire in news media to suggest that America is not "post-racial." As to Savino's remarks, top Paterson aide Larry Schwartz called her statements "insensitive and totally inappropriate."
Some saw this as playing the vision card against the race card. If so, this is some card game.
Savino's office Tuesday wasn't commenting on her point being echoed, kind of, by Murdoch.
Nor were Paterson's spokespeople.
At least nobody was calling their official silence a conspiracy. Not yet, anyway.