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Paterson rejects calls to publicly rebut allegations

Gov. David Paterson, left, leaves his midtown office,

Gov. David Paterson, left, leaves his midtown office, Friday, March 5, 2010 in New York City. Photo Credit: AP

Gov. David A. Paterson Sunday defiantly rejected calls from Democratic Party leaders and lawmakers to publicly rebut the allegations against him, saying he would wait to be interviewed by investigators.

"When I do any talking about the circumstances in which I've been involved, I will be talking to the investigation, not to the media," Paterson told a worship service at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Brooklyn.

Referring to people pressuring him and other "victims of rumors, innuendo or lies," he said, "they will think, 'We just have to push a little harder and we'll get someone to make a mistake and start speaking and talking before they've been to an official inquiry.' "

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The governor's comments were a rebuke to many, including Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio and Jay Jacobs, head of the Nassau and state Democratic committees. Last week, all three men publicly urged Paterson to give a detailed response to allegations that he interfered in a domestic violence case involving a longtime aide and lied about soliciting and using free tickets to a 2009 World Series game.

Told of Paterson's speech at the church, Jacobs declined to comment. Earlier Sunday, Jacobs said Paterson told him he intended to give a public rebuttal. "He's working on that and he will respond."

Silver, through a spokesman, declined to comment. Lazio spokesman Barney Keller said, "It's disappointing."

Several Democratic Party officials expressed dismay at Paterson's reticence. One, who requested anonymity, said the governor's stance cast doubt on his denial of wrongdoing and would lead to increased calls for him to step down, particularly if more damaging information comes out. "The lack of a response is not acceptable," the official said.

At the Bedford-Stuyvesant church, Paterson, who is Catholic, repeated his criticism of the media and his vow to finish his term, which expires on Jan. 1. He frequently invoked God. "I will keep governing until the end of the year with the spirit of making the tough decisions and trying as hard as I can to fulfill the mission in which God placed me," he said to applause and "Amen."

Paterson spent part of Sunday working on the state budget. He spoke with state Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), the minority leader, to request a private budget discussion with the 30 GOP senators. A Skelos spokesman said the session could occur as early as Monday.

Separately Sunday, New York City Councilman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn) called for state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to recuse himself from probing Paterson, saying a conflict of interest existed.

Barron, an outspoken backer of Paterson, said he was upset by Cuomo's private meeting Friday with Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch. "Since Cuomo is likely to run for governor, he should do the right thing and immediately remove himself from the investigation of Gov. Paterson," Barron said.

But Jacobs and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said no conflict existed because Paterson requested the Cuomo probe and Paterson has dropped his election campaign.

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