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“BLACK, BLIND AND IN CHARGE”

Tonight, David Paterson shares his memoirs as well as the trials and tribulations of being "Black, Blind, & In Charge: A Story of Visionary Leadership and Overcoming Adversity."

AIRED: October 21, 2020 | 0:14:23
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

>>> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO

"METROFOCUS."

I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

WHEN MOST POLITICIANS ACCEPT A

VICE OR LIEUTENANT POSITION IN

GOVERNMENT, IT'S USUALLY WITH

THE UNDERSTANDING THAT THEY'LL

BE SERVING IN A SUPPORTIVE ROLE

TO THE EXECUTIVE IN CHIEF.

HOWEVER, THERE ARE THOSE

OCCASIONS WHEN SECOND IN COMMAND

SUDDENLY BECOMES FIRST.

FORMER NEW YORK GOVERNOR DAVID

PATTERSON KNOWS ALL TOO WELL

ABOUT THAT.

ON MARCH 10th OF 2008 THE THEN

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR RECEIVED A

PHONE CALL THAT WOULD CHANGE HIS

LIFE.

AND BEFORE HE KNEW IT HE HAD

GONE FROM MANHATTAN STATE

SENATOR TO LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR

TO GOVERNOR IN JUST OVER TWO

YEARS.

HE WAS ALSO THE FIRST

AFRICAN-AMERICAN AND THE FIRST

BLIND PERSON TO EVER HOLD THE

POSITION OF GOVERNOR IN THE

EMPIRE STATE.

IT'S A DIZZYING CHANGE FOR

ANYBODY, AND GOVERNOR PATTERSON

RECOUNTS THOSE EXPERIENCES AND

MORE IN HIS NEW MEMOIR, "BLACK,

BLIND, AND IN CHARGE."

AND I'D LIKE TO WELCOME HIM TO

"METROFOCUS."

GOVERNOR PATTERSON, IT IS A

GREAT PLEASURE TO HAVE YOU ON

THE SHOW.

>> THANK YOU, JENNA, IT'S GREAT

TO BE ON THE SHOW.

>> SO FIRST, LET'S GO BACK TO

THAT MOMENT WHEN YOU GOT THAT

FIRST PHONE CALL ABOUT THE

SCANDAL THAT GOVERNOR SPITZER

HAD FOUND HIMSELF IN.

WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION?

>> I'D SAY MILD SHOCK.

OBVIOUSLY THE GOVERNOR'S

SECRETARY AND THE GOVERNOR AND

MANY PEOPLE KNEW THAT THIS

PROBLEM EXISTED THREE DAYS

BEFORE AND THEY DECIDE TO TELL

ME ABOUT AN HOUR AND TEN MINUTES

BEFORE THE GOVERNOR'S GOING TO

RESIGN AT 2:15 THAT AFTERNOON.

SO I WAS SITTING IN MY OFFICE

WHEN HE CALLED ME, AND HE WAS

WHISPERING BECAUSE HE WAS IN THE

GOVERNOR'S BATHROOM BECAUSE THE

GOVERNOR FORBADE ANYONE TO SPEAK

TO ME ABOUT IT, HE SAID HE WOULD

DO IT HIMSELF.

BUT THE SECRETARY'S NOW

REALIZING IT'S SO CLOSE TO THE

TIME I'M GOING TO BECOME

GOVERNOR, WHEN HE REMINDED THE

GOVERNOR OF THAT HE SAID OH,

JUST GIVE HIM SOMETHING TO READ.

HE SAID GOVERNOR, HE DOESN'T

READ, HE MEMORIZES, AND I DON'T

THINK HE HAS TIME TO MEMORIZE

WHATEVER THIS STATEMENT IS.

AND REMEMBER, IN AN HOUR HE'LL

BE THE GOVERNOR AND THE FIRST

THING HE'S GOING TO ASK ALL OF

US IS WHY DID YOU PUT ME IN THAT

POSITION?

SO YOU KNOW, I WAS A LITTLE

SHOCKED AND I TOLD MY SECRETARY

THAT I WAS GOING TO LEAVE THE

BUILDING SO I WOULDN'T BE PART

OF ANY MEDIA HUNT OVER ME.

AND I OPENED THE DOOR TO LEAVE

MY OFFICE AND ABOUT 15 CAMERAS

WENT OFF IN MY FACE.

AND I CLOSED THE DOOR AND I PUT

MY BACK TO THE DOOR AND I SAID

TO MY SECRETARY, I THINK MY LIFE

JUST CHANGED.

>> AS SERIOUS AS THAT MOMENT

REALLY WAS, SO MANY OF THE

STORIES IN THIS BOOK ALMOST READ

LIKE THEY COULD BE IN A -- I

HATE TO SAY IT BUT ALMOST A

SATIRICAL STORY ABOUT POLITICS.

AND I SAY THAT BECAUSE ONCE YOU

GOT THAT PHONE CALL YOU TOOK IT

UPON YOURSELF TO ACTUALLY LET

SOME OTHER KEY PLAYERS IN ALBANY

KNOW AND ACTUALLY THROUGHOUT NEW

YORK POLITICS.

AND THE FIRST PERSON WHO CALLED

YOU BACK, THAT WAS AN AWKWARD

PHONE CALL.

>> MY FATHER, BASEL PATTERSON

WHO HAD BEEN THE FIRST

AFRICAN-AMERICAN VICE CHAIR OF

THE DEMOCRATIC COMMITTEE AND

SECRETARY TO GOVERNOR KERRY AND

HAD ALWAYS INCREDIBLE WISDOM IN

SITUATIONS LIKE THAT TOLD ME

YOU'D BETTER TELL THE OTHER

LEADERS OF THE STATE THE

GOVERNOR HASN'T EVEN SPOKEN TO

YOU AND IN AN HOUR THEY'RE ALL

GOING TO ASK YOU WHY YOU DIDN'T

TELL THEM WHAT WAS GOING ON.

SENATOR CLINTON WAS STILL IN A

HOT PRIMARY AGAINST SENATOR

OBAMA, WHO WOULD EVENTUALLY

BECOME THE PRESIDENT.

AND SHE'S THE FIRST ONE TO CALL

BACK, WHICH KIND OF SHOCKED ME.

SHE SAID IS EVERYTHING ALL

RIGHT?

I GOT AN OMINOUS FEELING WHEN I

GOT THIS MESSAGE FROM YOU.

AND I SAID, SENATOR, LISTEN, IN

ABOUT A HALF HOUR I'M GOING TO

BE SWORN IN AS GOVERNOR.

AND SHE SAID, OH, MY GOD, WHAT'S

HAPPENED?

I SAID NO, SENATOR, THE GOVERNOR

IS FINE BUT HE'S GOING TO RESIGN

IN ABOUT HALF AN HOUR.

AND SHE SAID, WELL, WHY IS HE

GOING TO RESIGN, DAVID?

AND I JUST LOOKED UP AT THE

CEILING AND THOUGHT, HOW DO YOU

EXPLAIN ANOTHER SEX SCANDAL TO

HILLARY CLINTON?

>> AGAIN, IT'S JUST -- IT'S

STORY AFTER STORY LIKE THIS.

I THINK MOST PEOPLE CAN

UNDERSTAND THE SURPRISE OF,

LET'S SAY, HAVING AN UNEXPECTED

PROJECT FALL INTO YOUR LAP BUT

CERTAINLY NOT THE GOVERNORSHIP

OF NEW YORK.

AND I WAS WONDERING DID YOU GET

A MOMENT TO EVEN TRY TO PROCESS

ALL OF THIS ONCE YOU GOT THOSE

PHONE CALLS?

>> YOU KNOW WHAT WAS SO

INTERESTING, JENNA, IS WHEN I

BECAME THE MINORITY LEADER MY

STAFF WENT FROM 7 TO 150 IN A

MATTER OF DAYS AND WITHIN TWO

WEEKS I REALIZED THAT I DIDN'T

KNOW HOW TO MANAGE 150 PEOPLE.

AND I WENT TO A FRIEND OF MINE

WHO RAN ONE OF THOSE STRATEGIC

PLANNING COMPANIES AND THEY HAD

A SESSION WITH ME TO ADVISE ME

ON HOW YOU MANAGE A STAFF

THAT'S, YOU KNOW, NOT JUST 10 OR

15 PEOPLE.

I WOULD HAVE DONE THE SAME THING

WHEN I WAS GOVERNOR, BUT I

FORGOT ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED WHEN

I WAS MINORITY LEADER BECAUSE IT

WAS JUST CRISIS AFTER CRISIS.

WE HAD TO PASS THE STATE BUDGET.

13 DAYS AFTER I TAKE OFFICE.

AND WE DID.

WE HAD TO SETTLE THE ISSUE OF

CONGESTION PRICING BY APRIL 9th,

AND WE DID THAT.

AND IT WAS JUST ONE THING AFTER

THE OTHER.

AND I REALLY WISH I HAD STOPPED,

REGROUPED, REPOSITIONED THE

STAFF AND BROUGHT IN PEOPLE WHO

I THINK WOULD HAVE BETTER FIT

WHAT THE GOALS WERE THAT I

WANTED TO ACCOMPLISH.

>> AND WE'RE GOING TO GET INTO

SOME OF THE PEOPLE THAT YOU WERE

AT LEAST ATTEMPTING TO WORK

WITH.

BUT AGAIN, I JUST WANT TO GO

BACK TO THE POINT THAT THIS BOOK

ALMOST -- IT GIVES THE READER

LIKE ME WHIPLASH.

I CAN'T IMAGINE WHAT IT WAS LIKE

TO ACTUALLY LIVE THROUGH ALL

THESE LIKE ISSUE AFTER ISSUE

AFTER CRISIS AFTER CRISIS.

BUT I DO WANT TO DRAW ON YOUR 20

YEARS OF EXPERIENCE AS A STATE

SENATOR AND, AS YOU SAID, ALSO

THE MINORITY LEADER IN ALBANY

AND SAY THAT THAT GAVE YOU A

UNIQUE UNDERSTANDING OF HOW

ALBANY WORKS OR SOME MIGHT SAY

DOESN'T WORK.

SO I'M WONDERING WAS THERE

ANYTHING IN PARTICULAR THAT

STOOD OUT TO YOU ONCE YOU BECAME

GOVERNOR THAT MADE YOU GO, WAIT,

WHAT?

>> OH, ABSOLUTELY.

WITHIN THREE DAYS OF THE TIME I

BECAME GOVERNOR THE BUDGET

DIRECTOR COMES IN TO TELL ME

THAT GOVERNOR SPITZER HAD A

BUDGET THAT WE WERE ABOUT TO

PASS THAT HAD A 5.3% INCREASE IN

SPENDING WHILE ALL OF THE

ECONOMIC CONDITIONS, THE HOUSING

MARKET WAS FALLING, THE STOCK

MARKET WAS NOT FALLING YET BUT

IT CERTAINLY WAS TURBULENT AND

OF COURSE EVENTUALLY LATER THAT

YEAR WE HAD THE BEGINNING OF THE

FISCAL CRISIS IN 2008.

APPARENTLY GOVERNOR SPITZER'S

RELATIONSHIP WITH THE

LEGISLATURE WAS SO POOR THAT HE

BASICALLY HAD TO GIVE THEM A

BUDGET THAT THEY COULD PASS

BECAUSE THEY HAD HAD ABOUT

ENOUGH OF HIM AT THAT POINT.

IN FACT, WHEN HE TRIED TO GET

THE TWO LEADERS OF THE

LEGISLATURE TO BLOCK AN

IMPEACHMENT PROCEEDING AGAINST

HIM THEY TOLD HIM YOU CAN HAVE A

WEEK.

AND THEY BASICALLY TOLD HIM YOU

DON'T HAVE A VOTE IN THE HOUSE.

SO I WAS REALLY SURPRISED TO

HEAR THIS BECAUSE THIS WAS NOT

KNOWN, THIS WAS JUST SOMETHING

THAT THE GOVERNOR WAS DOING.

THE LEADERS WEREN'T GOING TO

PUBLICIZE IT BECAUSE THEY WERE

GOING TO BENEFIT FROM THE

SPENDING THAT COULD OCCUR.

SO I WAS IMMEDIATELY PUT IN A

SITUATION WHERE I WAS REVERSING

WHAT THE GOVERNOR HAD PROMISED

THE LEADERS AND THE LEGISLATORS,

BUT THE REASON I WAS DOING IT IS

THAT WE HAD A BUDGET DEFICIT

WHICH STARTED OUT AT 5 BILLION

WHICH I ESTIMATED THE DAY I CAME

INTO OFFICE AT 10 BILLION, WOUND

UP BEING $21.3 BILLION, AND WE

HAD TO CLOSE THAT GAP OR THE

STATE WOULD GO INTO DEFAULT.

SO YEAH, THERE WERE SOME

SURPRISES.

>> WOW.

SO OF COURSE THERE IS NO GENUINE

STORY, I WOULD SAY, ABOUT ALBANY

UNLESS IT INVOLVES A GOOD FEUD

OR TWO.

AND SO WITH THAT I DO WANT TO

CIRCLE BACK TO THE POINT YOU

WERE MAKING A MOMENT AGO ABOUT

PEOPLE WHO YOU AT LEAST WERE

TRYING TO WORK WITH.

YOU HAD A REALLY CONTENTIOUS

RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR

GRAVICH.NT GOVERNOR, RICHARD -

>> WELL, IT WASN'T AS MUCH THAT

IT WAS CONTENTIOUS AS WE CLOSED

THE BUDGET, THE DEFICIT OF $21.3

BILLION IN 2009 AND 8, THEN WE

CLOSED ANOTHER DEFICIT OF 10.2

BILLION IN 2009.

NOW WE'RE COMING TO THE LAST

$10.2 BILLION BUDGET IN 2010 AND

WE ESTIMATE THERE'S GOING TO BE

8 TO 10 BILLION DOLLARS MORE OF

DEFICIT THAT THE NEW GOVERNOR

WHO WE WERE HOPING WOULD BE

ANDREW CUOMO COULD FINISH THAT

OFF IN 2011 AND THEN HE WOULD BE

ABLE TO MANAGE WITHOUT ANY MORE

OF A FISCAL CRISIS.

AND THAT'S WHAT HAPPENED.

BUT MEANWHILE, MR. RAVICH GOES

AND OFFERS THIS IDEA WHICH HE

CALLED THE RAVITCH PLAN OF $6

BILLION, WHICH IS HOW WE GOT IN

TROUBLE IN THE FIRST PLACE.

GOVERNOR PATAKI CAME IN WITH THE

STATE IN DEBT AT $24 BILLION AND

HE DROVE IT UP OVER $50 BILLION

BY BORROWING.

SO NOW RAVITCH WANTS TO PUT

ANOTHER $6 BILLION ON TOP OF

THAT AND THEN PAY IT BACK OVER A

PERIOD OF TIME WHEN WE DON'T

EVEN KNOW IF THE FINANCIAL

CRISIS IS GOING TO END ANYTIME

SOON.

AND HE GOT ANGRY AND WROTE ALL

THESE ARTICLES AFTER HE GOT OUT

OF OFFICE SAYING WE DIDN'T

LISTEN TO HIM.

WE DID LISTEN TO HIM BUT WE

DIDN'T AGREE WITH HIM.

BUT WHEN WE DIDN'T AGREE WITH

HIM HE FOR SOME REASON TOLD

ANOTHER STAFF MEMBER HE DIDN'T

WORK FOR ME, HE WORKED WITH ME.

SO HE DIDN'T EVEN UNDERSTAND HIS

ROLE IN THE BEGINNING -- IN THE

FIRST PLACE.

>> OKAY.

ALL RIGHT.

WELL, PUTTING A PIN IN THAT

STORY, WHAT I ALSO THOUGHT WAS

REALLY INTERESTING WAS THAT IN

THE PROCESS OF YOU DEALING WITH

OR WORKING WITH LIEUTENANT

GOVERNOR RAVITCH AT THE TIME YOU

GOT SOME WARNINGS OR AT LEAST

SOME ADVICE FROM A PARTICULAR

NEW YORK CITY DEVELOPER WHO THE

REST OF THE COUNTRY HAS GOTTEN

TO KNOW VERY, VERY WELL.

>> A MAN NAMED DONALD TRUMP WAS

THE ONLY PERSON WHO OBJECTED TO

MY APPOINTING MR. RAVITCH.

I WASN'T LOOKING FOR A POLITICAL

FIGURE.

AND I KNEW THERE WOULD BE A

PRETTY STRONG COURT CASE TO TRY

TO BLOCK ME FROM APPOINTING A

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR.

SO WHEN YOU GET A LETTER FROM

DONALD TRUMP, JENNA, REMEMBER

THIS AND ALL OF THE VIEWERS

SHOULD LISTEN.

WHEN YOU GET A LETTER FROM NOW

PRESIDENT TRUMP, YOU DON'T GET

IT IN YOUR MAILBOX.

HE READS IT ON TV.

THAT'S HOW YOU FIND OUT ABOUT

THE LETTER.

>> OH.

>> HE SAID GOVERNOR, YOU'VE BEEN

IN OFFICE FOR A YEAR AND A HALF,

YOU'VE BEEN DOING SUCH A GREAT

JOB, WHY WOULD YOU HIRE THIS

GUY?

HE'S NOT QUALIFIED, HE WAS

TERRIBLE WHEN HE WORKED WITH THE

MTA AND THIS WHOLE LITANY JUST

LIKE THE ONES HE SAYS NOW WHEN

HE DOESN'T LIKE PEOPLE.

BUT I HAD TO ASK THE LIEUTENANT

GOVERNOR TO COME IN AND EXPLAIN

THIS TO ME.

AND I SAID, IT'S NOT CHANGING

ANYTHING I'M GOING TO DO BUT I

JUST WANT TO KNOW.

AND HE INFORMED ME THAT WHEN THE

HOTEL AT 42nd STREET AND

LEXINGTON AVENUE, THE HYATT, WAS

BEING BUILT THAT IT ADJOINED ONE

OF THE TRUMP BUILDINGS AND

DONALD TRUMP CALLED RAVITCH AND

ASKED THAT THE MTA BUILD A SIDE

ENTRANCE FOR THEIR EMPLOYEES.

RAVITCH COMPLIED AND SAID HE

WOULD SEND HIM ALL THE

INFORMATION AND SEND HIM THE

BILL FOR THE CONSTRUCTION.

AND TRUMP SAID I DO SO MUCH FOR

THE CITY, YOU ALL SHOULD DO THIS

FOR ME FOR FREE.

WELL, THIS WOULD ACTUALLY BE A

CRIME TO DO THIS.

AND OBVIOUSLY RAVITCH WASN'T

GOING TO DO IT.

BUT 31 YEARS LATER WHEN RAVITCH

BECOMES LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR MR.

TRUMP HASN'T FORGOTTEN IT AND HE

TELLS -- YOU KNOW, HE TELLS ME

THIS.

I IGNORE HIM.

BUT SIX MONTHS LATER RAVITCH IS

COMING OUT OF A BUILDING AND THE

MEDIA ASKS HIM WHAT DOES HE

THINK ABOUT MY BUDGET?

HE SAYS THE BUDGET'S PRETTY GOOD

BUT I DON'T THINK THE

LEGISLATURE WILL PASS IT.

SO NOW YOU HAVE HEADLINE,

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR CONTRADICTS

GOVERNOR AND IT'S ALL

CONTROVERSIAL.

I'M SITTING IN MY OFFICE SHAKING

MY HEAD.

AND I GET A CALL AND THEY SAID

DONALD TRUMP'S ON THE LINE.

I NEVER MADE THE CONNECTION,

JENNA.

>> OH, MY GOODNESS.

>> HE SAYS DAVID, THIS GUY'S A

SOMETHING HOLE AND HE'S AN

IDIOT, HE'S DISLOYAL AND

UNTRUSTWORTHY, I WARNLD YOU

ABOUT HIM, YOU SHOULD HAVE

LISTENED TO ME.

AND I SAID DONALD, TODAY I'M

HAVING A ROUGH DAY, I DON'T HAVE

THE STRENGTH TO ARGUE WITH YOU,

BUT THANKS SO MUCH FOR CALLING.

WE GOT OFF THE PHONE AND ABOUT

15 MINUTES LATER I HAD TWO DOORS

THAT OPEN UP INTO MY OFFICE AS

GOVERNOR.

THEY BOTH FLEW OPEN

SIMULTANEOUSLY AND ABOUT SIX

STAFF MEMBERS COME IN AND SAY

WHY DID YOU TELL DONALD TRUMP

AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS THAT

YOU WISH YOU DIDN'T TAKE RAVITCH

IN THE FIRST PLACE?

I SAID I NEVER SAID THAT.

SO OF COURSE I CALLED DONALD

BACK AND I SAID DONALD, YOU AND

I BOTH KNOW I DIDN'T SAY THAT.

AND HE SAYS TO ME, BUT IT'S THE

TRUTH.

IT'S THE TRUTH.

YOU KNOW IN YOUR HEART YOU WISH

YOU DIDN'T TAKE THAT GUY.

LOOK ME IN THE EYE AND TELL ME

THAT YOU REALLY WANTED TO TAKE

THAT GUY NOW KNOWING WHO HE IS.

AND I SAID DONALD, I CAN'T LOOK

YOU IN THE EYE.

WE'RE ON THE TELEPHONE.

AND SECOND, I'M GOING TO EXTEND

YOU THE COURTESY YOU THAT NEVER

EXTENDED TO ME.

I'M ISSUING A PRESS STATEMENT

TELLING THE TRUTH, WHICH IS THAT

I NEVER SAID THAT.

AND HE SAYS, OH, COME ON, DAVID,

YOU DON'T WANT TO TAKE ME ON ON

AN ISSUE LIKE THIS.

YOU'RE LOOKING GREAT OUT HERE.

PEOPLE HATE THIS GUY.

IT WAS VINTAGE TRUMP THAT WE'VE

WATCHED AS PRESIDENT FOR THE

LAST FOUR YEARS, BUT I GOT A

GLIMPSE OF IT 12 YEARS BEFORE.

>> WELL, UNFORTUNATELY, WE'RE

GOING TO LEAVE IT THERE.

ALL I CAN SAY, GOVERNOR

PATTERSON, IS YOUR BOOK IS

FILLED WITH STORIES LIKE THIS

THAT SEEM LIKE THEY WOULD BE PRO

FORMA ON THE SURFACE BUT JUST

WOW.

I DON'T KNOW WHAT ELSE TO SAY

BUT WOW.

SO THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING

US.

AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, THANK YOU

FOR THIS BOOK.

I THINK IT MAKES A LOT OF

POLITICAL FIGURES FEEL MORE

HUMAN.

>> JENNA, I TRIED TO WRITE IT

THAT WAY.

PEOPLE WRITE 500 PAGES ABOUT HOW

GREAT THEY WERE.

I TRIED TO ADDRESS MY OWN

MISTAKES AND AT TIMES

UNFORTUNATELY THE MISTAKES OF

OTHERS.

>> WELL, AGAIN, THANK YOU FOR

THIS BOOK BECAUSE IT IS REALLY

GREAT.

SO THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.

>> AND THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

>> ABSOLUTELY.