Could some of the Paladino e-mails been forgeries?
by Jerry Myrle Fuller
This, and other questions, that the Albany press refuses to ask
Sunday, April 18, 2010
(Note: Most of you know that I am not a reporter by trade or training,
and that my area of expertise is meteorology, so if this reads like a
first-person journal entry, that is part of the reason. It seems to
flow a little better that way.)
By now, most of you have heard about the e-mail leak from a liberal
blog known as wnymedia.net that purports, in big letters, to be
displaying the scandalous "racist and sexist e-mails" put forth by
Buffalo developer and Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl P.
Paladino. Immediately I became suspicious. The article asserted that
the e-mails were real with all the authority of a Facebook chain
message. So, I did some research.
Initially, this article was going to be a plain old rant about how this
state seems to treat upstate politicians with a lot less respect than
downstaters, pointing out the curious parallel between this and Chris
Collins's alleged "lap dance" comments that were unverifiable and blown
way out of proportion, killing his proposed campaign for governor. It
is no coincidence that both came from Buffalo, and it is also no
coincidence that it has been decades since the state of New York has
had a governor from the upstate region. However, I began to notice
something: while for a few days, it appeared that Paladino's campaign
would indeed go down in flames, as would-be supporters ranging from
Curtis Sliwa to Mark Williams disavowed him over the controversy,
something funny happened: Paladino's die-hard supporters rallied around
him harder than ever. Paladino has a strong cult following, with
passionate and outspoken supporters-- something I really don't see
outside the political class for Lazio or Levy. They began to see the
outrage over the e-mails as over the top. This led to wnymedia.net
trying to push its rebuttal and insist that Carl Paladino was a dirty
racist unfit for the office of governor of New York.
So, I looked into wnymedia.net-- specifically Alan Bedenko, the man who
portrays himself as "buffalopundit--" to see who this guy was. To put
it bluntly, he's an ambulance chaser (i.e., an auto injury attorney)
who joined the Democratic Party in 2003. Having sporadically read his
commentary, he's always been fairly strongly liberal. This was
relatively mundane information, but then I stumbled on a little item
from the Niagara Falls Reporter
(a local alternative tabloid in the Niagara Falls area) that had
something eerily familiar. The article dates to February 2009 and stems
from an unrelated e-mail feud between Sam Hoyt and Buffalo City Hall
(my emphasis added):
Big catfight in Buffalo last week
between amateur bloggers Alan Bedenko of Buffalo Pundit and Glenn
Gramigna of New WNY Politics, precipitated by the self-important Bedenko's decision to publish what he even
said was a series of fraudulent e-mails purporting to have been
sent between some top aides to Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown last summer.
Clearly, the e-mails were meant to slander and defame the people at
Buffalo City Hall. Why Bedenko, who is an attorney in real life, chose
to publish them is anyone's guess. Enter Gramigna, who openly
speculated that -- since Bedenko was the only one to publish the lurid
e-mails -- perhaps Bedenko in fact
had been their author. Actually, the theory makes a lot of
sense. The e-mails were shopped to
various news outlets last summer, and my impression was that
they were created in response to the publication by the Niagara Falls
Reporter of another series of e-mails between the married state Rep.
Sam Hoyt and a young and comely Albany intern he was carrying on with.
The Hoyt camp openly accused Brown's first deputy mayor, Steve Casey,
of being behind the leaking of the Hoyt e-mails -- which were genuine
-- and Casey, perhaps coincidentally, figures prominently in the
admittedly fraudulent e-mails published by Bedenko. Also perhaps
coincidentally, Bedenko was a strong supporter of Hoyt during the last
election cycle, has been a consistent critic of the Brown
administration and was, after all, the only one to publish the garbage.
Anyway, he phoned Gramigna "in a rage" and, being a lawyer, claimed his
rival to be guilty of defamation. For his part, Gramigna is every bit
the clueless lump comedians make fun of when discussing bloggers, and
immediately posted a retraction. One question remains: Who did write
the slanderous and potentially damaging e-mails Gramigna ascribed to
Bedenko? Bedenko vehemently denies he wrote them, of course, but who
Alan Bedenko has a history of questionable e-mail "leaks" that
pre-dates the Paladino e-mail flap. As I understood it, reporters are
supposed to check the reliability of their sources before quoting their
allegations as fact-- something that did not appear to happen when
these e-mails were leaked and subsequently went viral. Considering that
I'm pretty sure wnymedia.net isn't on most of the Albany press members'
must-read lists (their articles rarely show up on the major blogs), I'd
venture to say there was also some shopping going around with the
Paladino story as well.
Addendum, May 4, 2015:
I am not trying to claim that the entire thing is an absolute hoax.
Paladino himself has acknowledged that at least some of the e-mails in
question were in fact authentic. Many of them, knowing Paladino's
public persona and admitted racial insensitivity, aren't even all that
surprising. However, there is the question that if Paladino in fact did
not author some of these alleged e-mails, why did he not come out and
deny them? The best answer that I can give is that Michael Caputo
didn't even try to do so. Caputo, after the e-mail controversy broke,
stated repeatedly that "We're not sure about the authenticity of the
emails, and we don't care. I'm not even going to comment on the emails.
It's not something I care to look at." He has characterized the leak as
a "liberal Democrat blog smear" and has declined to delve into the
Five years after I wrote this (and 3½ years after I got out of the
political blogging “business,” if you will), Bedenko responded
to me. Let it be on the record that he also denies forging the e-mails
in the Paladino case, and for that I take him at his word. My point in
writing this article was that the Albany press ran with a story,
apparently without conducting due diligence on the source or its
veracity. Whether or not there were hoax e-mails mixed in with
the authentic ones, Bedenko did not write them.
Caputo is a protégé of Roger Stone, the infamous
Republican strategist (Stone is, according to numerous reports, working
on the Paladino campaign behind the scenes while he does official work
for convicted ex-pimp Kristin Davis's Libertarian Party bid); one of
"Stone's Rules" is to "admit nothing, deny everything, launch
counterattack." Clearly, Caputo overlooked this rule. Some of the
allegations probably couldn't have been denied, but he should have at
least made an effort to convey to the public that they were looking
into it, and not treated the accusations at face value. That is what
counterattacking is all about-- tearing apart the opponent's attack and
making him (or her) look bad for launching it. Don't ask me why Caputo
didn't bother to do that, because it struck me as a sloppy and lazy
response. Bedenko's previous e-mail flap turned up on a Google search
of his name.
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