ALBANY Gov. Cuomo, who in recent months has steadfastly avoided the state Capitol press corps that covers him, has a new tactic to get his message out.
It seems the governor wants to be able to interview himself.
Instead of holding formal press conferences, Cuomo of late has conducted a number of conference calls with the media in which he discusses a topic like the congressional tax plan and then takes a limited amount of questions afterward.
The governors staff picks who gets to ask the questions on the call.
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At the same time, Cuomo press aides have worked to try and plant the questions they want asked.
At least twice in recent weeks, the governors staff has suggested a question the Daily News might want to ask Cuomo. When The News passed, the papers reporters were not picked to ask anything on the phone conference.
Reporters who asked the questions that were floated to The News, however, were picked.
George Arzt, a former long-time political reporter and press secretary to Mayor Ed Koch, called it a very controlled press conference.
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Its highly unusual, Arzt said. If he gets away with it, more power to him. If he doesnt, hell try something else.
A former press secretary for a previous governor who asked to remain anonymous likened the situation to a dictatorship.
We would have loved to have been able to just have people ask the questions we wanted to ask, he laughed.
Attempts to plant questions with the press is not unusual. But usually that happens in full-blown press conferences where reporters have the opportunity to ask about a variety of subjects.
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Instead, of late, Cuomo has held the phone conference calls with the media, despite his being in Albany. Some included California Gov. Jerry Brown and were meant to attract attention from national reporters.
But Cuomo has not met with the Capitol reporters in a formal press conference setting since the end of the legislative session in June.
In protest, several reporters, including one from The News, sat outside his office Thursday waiting for his latest phone conference call on the federal tax bill to begin. The group dispersed when it was learned the governor wasnt in his Capitol office.
Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi said that the governor was working on the state of the state at the house, was not in the office, and decided to conduct a press conference call to keep this critically important (federal tax) issue in the news and reach media outlets in these congressmember’s districts.”
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Capitol reporters have been unable to directly ask Cuomo about a myriad of issues, including the upcoming federal corruption trials of a number of former aides and associates and details about the recent departure of one of his economic development aides accused of sexual harassment.
The governor, like all public servants, has the responsibility to tell voters what theyre doing, said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Group. The main way to do that is through the media. New Yorkers want and deserve a freewheeling press availability by the governor and all elected officials.