Spitzer the Thug
With those words Eliot Spitzer showed exactly why he is unfit for office.
Not only did Spitzer's words show immaturity, an inability to deal with ligitimate criticism and a short temper, but Spitzer may have even criminally threatened a well respected public servant, businessman and philanthropist simply because he exercised his right to free speech and dared to criticize New York's Attorney General. (Currently Whitehead is Chairman of the board of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which is tasked with rebuilding and revitalizing lower Manhattan in the wake of 9-11.)
Today, after 8 months of being mum on the conversation Whitehead wrote about it in an Op-Ed in today's Wall Street Journal in order to "set the record straight."
Here is the entire article:
"It's now a war between us," Eliot Spitzer told me. "I will be coming after you."
BY JOHN C. WHITEHEAD
Thursday, December 22, 2005 12:45 p.m. EST
Last April, The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed piece by me titled "Mr. Spitzer Has Gone Too Far." In it I expressed my belief that in America, everyone--including Hank Greenberg--is innocent until proven guilty. "Something has gone seriously awry," I wrote, "when a state attorney general can go on television and charge one of America's best CEOs and most generous philanthropists with fraud before any charges have been brought, before the possible defendant has even had a chance to know what he personally is alleged to have done, and while the investigation is still under way."
Since there have been rumors in the media as to what happened next, I feel I must now set the record straight. After reading my op-ed piece, Mr. Spitzer tried to phone me. I was traveling in Texas but he reached me early in the afternoon. After asking me one or two questions about where I got my facts, he came right to the point. I was so shocked that I wrote it all down right away so I would be sure to remember it exactly as he said it. This is what he said:
"Mr. Whitehead, it's now a war between us and you've fired the first shot. I will be coming after you. You will pay the price. This is only the beginning and you will pay dearly for what you have done. You will wish you had never written that letter."
I tried to interrupt to say he was doing to me exactly what he'd been doing to others, but he wouldn't be interrupted. He went on in the same vein for several more sentences and then abruptly hung up. I was astounded. No one had ever talked to me like that before. It was a little scary.
It's up to others to make their own conclusions. I have only set out here what happened.
The threat is unmistakable: "I will be coming after you. You will pay the price. This is only the beginning and you will pay dearly for what you have done. You will wish you had never written that letter."
It is something you would expect to hear from a law enforcement official in a third world dictatorship, not from the chief law enforcement official in the financial capital of the most free country in the world.
Whitehead's initial comments came as a response to Spitzer's allegations against AIG and its CEO Hank Greenberg. In a national TV interview Spitzer said of Greenberg and AIG: "The evidence is overwhelming that these were transactions created for the purpose of deceiving the market. We call that fraud. It is deceptive. It is wrong. It is illegal."
And while Spitzer has filed a civil suit based on those charges, no trial date has been set as settlement talks continue. More importantly though, Spitzer has never filed criminal charges despite his nationaly televised statement that Greenberg engaged in fraud and that Spitzer had "overwhelming" evidence to support his accusations.
Make no mistake, Spitzer acted like a thug who is better suited to the Sopranos than for public office. Maybe as the campaign nears, New Yorkers will realize that having a Governor who uses his public office and citizens tax dollars to harass and threaten those who disagree with him would not only be bad for New York, but would make the great state of New York a national embarrassement.
[Note: More attention needs to be paid to this case. So please forward this story to anyone you know since the besides the Wall Street Journal's Op-Ed page the traditional media outlets appear to be completely MIA.]
Through a spokesman Spizer denied Whitehead's account of the conversation, but declined to provide details of his recollection of the conversation:
This denial is classic Spitzer: He accuses Whitehead of writing the Op-ed as a favor to Greenberg but provides absolutely no evidence, and instead of providing his account of the story sends a spokesman out to the media to make baseless accusations about a man who dares to speak against him.
Spitzer denies making these threats, spokesman Darren Dopp said, disputes Whitehead's characterization of the conversation. Spitzer further argues Whitehead was encouraged to write the pieces at the behest of Greenberg, a friend.
"This account is not accurate. It is embellished and false. (Whitehead) is simply not telling the truth," Dopp said. "It's clear Hank asked him to write a letter attacking Eliot and he did so."