Lake George in the early Fall is a lovely place which is why the state’s Business Council held its meeting there yesterday at the palatial Sagamore Resort. They asked Buffalo’s Carl Paladino up to speak and his message was supposed to be about how he’s going to make the state sweeter for business than a New York McIntosh. But what ensued after he arrived was a better show than apples or fall foliage.
From one direction came the New York Post‘s Fred U. Dicker, amid a pack of Albany journos and TV cameras. From the other came Team Paladino. They met in the corridor.
Dicker launched the first salvo, asking Paladino about his charge in an interview yesterday afternoon with Politico’s Maggie Haberman where he asked why Andrew Cuomo’s own past marital difficulties have not gotten the attention that his own out-of-wedlock daughter has.
Cuomo’s campaign, said Dicker, “says you’ve descended into the gutter by saying he had extra marital relations while he was married. Do you have any evidence of that, and if you don’t isn’t that going into the gutter?”
Paladino looks down. He chews his lip. “Hmm,” he says. “Well a guy that’s been in the gutter and spent a good part of his life in the gutter with Andrew Farkas should think twice about trying to characterize me.”
(For obscure Farkas reference, see Barrett, W., Aug. 29, 2006: “Andrew Cuomo’s $2 Million Man,” now the subject of a Paladino attack ad.)
“You’re a lawyer, what evidence do you have for something most people would consider a smear?”
Now Carl is looking up and the look is not nice. “I want to know why you sent your goons after my daughter.”
“I sent no one,” says Dicker.
“I want to know Fred,” says Paladino.
“Do you have any evidence?” persists Dicker.
“Of course I do. You’ll get it at the appropriate time. You’re not entitled to it.”
Dicker’s hand now reaches out towards the candidate, stopping a couple inches short of Paladino’s tie.
Michael Caputo, Paladino campaign manager, is heard warning Dicker about the hand. “Fred, fingers don’t belong here.”
It is too late, however. The two are in a school yard stand-off, cameras rolling.
“I have a daughter” shouts Paladino.
“You brought it out,” says Dicker, the hand still waving.
Caputo jumps between them. “Fred, that’s it.” He tries to push the Post reporter away.
“Stay away from me,” barks Fred, his chin jutting towards the candidate, stepping in closer, a classic boxing move to steal a foe’s breathing space. “What evidence do you have?”
Paladino steps back. His finger goes up in warning.
“Do you have the evidence or do you not?” continues Dicker. “He’s the attorney general of the State of New York!”
“Yes and you’re his stalking horse! You’re his bird dog.”
They are circling now, Caputo still trying to push Dicker back.
Now comes the Republican’s tough shot:
“You send another goon to my daughter’s house and I’ll take you out, buddy!”
“You’ll take me out?”
“How you gonna do that?”
“Are you threatening me?”
The candidate’s aides jump in, separating the fighters. Paladino is heard: “Fuck him!”
Paladino is hustled away to cool down before his speech.
Caputo, who has been telling war stories lately about his own showdowns with Russian thugs, takes over: “You’re working for Cuomo,” he spouts. “How come you didn’t write that Nancy Naples wasn’t in trouble when I gave you the evidence? You’re a terrible journalist.”
“Thank you very much,” says Dicker.
“When the pendulum swings away from Cuomo we’ll welcome you back Fred, but you’re way out of line. You’re such a biased person,” says Caputo. “You’re out of here.”
“Out of here? What does that mean?” cries Fred.
“You’re off our campaign’s list. You get nothing more from us. You can go back to just covering Cuomo and kissing his butt.”
Dicker is grinning. “And Paterson too, right? Kissed his butt?” responds the state editor who started using the word “liar” in his stories about the governor early last year. “And Spitzer’s butt? And Pataki’s butt?” (He notedly stopped short of the current Democratic gubernatorial candidate, but we know that’s somewhere down the line as well.)
“Fred, you’re so out of line,” says Caputo.
Dicker reaches a hand out. “Get out of my face!” he snarls.
Caputo has one last ill wish: “You’re off the Christmas list!”
Alright, for those who are new to this, let me say that this is not the first time that Fred Dicker has successfully gotten under the skin of an Albany pol. In 1987 he was shoved to the floor by a top aide to Assembly Speaker Mel Miller as he shadowed the men, TV camera in tow.
“You’d better protect your private parts,” cried Norman Adler as he jabbed the prostrate Dicker with his foot. He later apologized.
And if you’d like a good example of why Eliot Spitzer sought solace in the arms of “Kristen” in Room 871 of the Washington Mayflower a few months later, take a look at the now You-Tubed video of Dicker going after Spitzer in the midst of “Troopergate,” a scandal that Dicker did his best to promote. Don’t stop after the first three minutes of jousting. Push the needle up to the 5:45 minute mark and then to 9:30 as the reporter weighs in again.
Actually, it’s unfair that Dicker gets all this credit for being the top bulldog in our field. I only wish that I could show you a YouTube video of the Voice‘s Barrett as his questions reduced a powerful Brooklyn politician to tears back in 1986, or the millionaire real estate baron who broke into sobs and ran away as Barrett hammered him with questions about his wired deals. Alas, those performances are lost to history, like Satchel Paiges‘s greatest no-hitters in the old Negro Leagues. But take my word for it, Dicker’s best heat doesn’t come close.