The reporting motto of NYT reporters Danny Hakim and William K. Rashbaum seems to be: When in doubt, insinuate.
For months, the team of NYT reporters kept noting that Gov. David Paterson's February 5 phone call to Sherr-Una Booker -- the woman allegedly assaulted by Paterson's aide, David Johnson -- took place the day before a scheduled court date that she ended up skipping.
The clear implication was that the Governor may have engaged in witness tampering by pressuring Booker to not go to court for an order of protection against Johnson.
But in July, the Judith Kaye investigation for the Attorney General revealed that the subject of the court date didn't even come up in the Booker-Paterson phone call -- and that Booker had forgotten all about the hearing, and thought she'd already missed it.
Now, the NYT reporters are once again using the coincidental juxtaposition of dates to insinuate the governor's guilt in a new criminal investigation-- and again, without any evidence to support their supposition.
Today's NYT story about new charges against Johnson raised a curious new element to its long-running campaign against the governor: the implication that he may have been involved in an illegal access of Booker's medical records.
In the second paragraph, reporters Hakim and Rashbaum note that the FBI is investigating the unauthorized access of Booker's medical records from a local hospital.
"The records were retrieved electronically on Feb. 5, a day after The New York Times asked Mr. Paterson questions about the domestic episode," the story states, in the third paragraph. "It remains unclear who obtained the records; doing so without authorization is a federal crime."
But does it really remain unclear? No -- it's quite clear what the NYT thinks happened.
The obvious implication is that the governor, or persons acting on his behalf -- prompted by concerns raised in his conversation with a NYT editor on February 4 -- may have unlawfully accessed Booker's records.
It's an odd, yet typical, attempt by the NYT to insinuate Paterson's guilt in his handling of the Booker episode. In a story purportedly devoted to the topic of his aide's arraignment on misdemeanor assault charges, the NYT clearly wanted to tie the governor to still-unanswered questions in the case -- even though the Kaye report cleared him of any criminal acts in his handling of it.
Today's story returns to the theme of Paterson's possible connection to the medical records in the next-to-last paragraph, going into more ominous detail about the coincidence of dates:
The records were retrieved on Feb. 5, a day after a Times editor asked the governor about the Oct. 31 episode and whether an order of protection had been issued. At that time, the question of whether Ms. Booker had been the victim of an assault was a pressing one for the Paterson administration. Mr. Paterson, in his conversation with The Times on Feb. 4, said there had been no violence.
There's really no way to read that paragraph without suspecting that the Governor of New York State was somehow involved in the illegal retrieval of a private citizen's medical records. And that's precisely what the NYT wants you to suspect -- without a single shred of evidence to support that suspicion.
We're not defending the governor's handling of the Johnson case; we've said before that the NYT's first salvo againast the governor -- its investigation into David Johnson's abusive history --showed a lax attitude on Paterson's part, and that he should be held fully accountable for actions of a top aide. Parerson showed repeated poor judgement in Johnson's case, and we have no objections to the NYT's scrutiny of his handling of it.
But the newspaper has an obligation to treat the governor with the same right to fairness as any other citizen. And yet, in the case of the NYT vs. David Paterson, the governor continues to be guilty until proven innocent.