Vlasto says the Liz Benjamin file was just a normal part of the process of complaining about coverage
Ben Smith reported that the Cuomo administration's normally inconspicuous communications director Richard Bamberger had compiled an annotated "35-page dossier" of journalist Liz Benjamin's writings on the governor.
Smith wrote that it "reflects the intense sensitivity of a governor on the brink of taking the national stage."
This morning, the governor's press secretary Josh Vlasto called in to the radio program of New York Post state editor Fred Dicker, who is a rival of Benjamin and who has a close working relationship with Cuomo.
"I think to have this characterized as it was is such a distortion," Vlasto said.
The file, which Smith also posted, is essentially a collection of Benjamin's clips with various objectionable-to-the-Cuomo-administration sections highlighted, often, with the annotation "snarky."
"Rich put together a compilation of blogs because he was going in to have a meeting to discuss coverage with the producers over at YNN, producers he had worked with for many years when he was in television, even up in Albany at Channel 6," said Vlasto, who was calling in from vacation. "If you're going in for a meeting to discuss coverage, you put together the coverage you're gonna discuss."
"My understanding, I wasn't at the meeting, the meeting went well and was productive," Vlasto added. "The blogs were never discussed again, and then they were discarded. You know, I guess somebody is going through our trash these days, which is another matter that we'll have to look into."
Vlasto was speaking on New York Post Albany editor Fred Dicker's radio show, on Talk 1300. Dicker is also writing a biography of the governor, one in which the governor is participating.
Dicker was supportive of the administration's position.
"As a journalist who has had governors personally, not their press secretaries, try to get me fired, time after time after time, Hugh Carey, Mario Cuomo, George Pataki, Eliot Spitzer, as a journalist who's had the governors try to get rid of me, I don't find it especially shocking that a communications director writes up an assessment of a journalist," said Dicker. "That's what they do."
"By the way I think the word 'snark' is just a modern euphemism for nasty," said Dicker. "And I gather the concern was that unfairly her blogs were being nasty or snarky to the governor without justification or factual backup, and that was part of the reason Bamberger, Rich Bamberger, was going in to speak to the YNN people. Is that correct?"
"Not only is that correct," said Vlasto, "but I think you mentioned my father was press secretary to Governor Carey."
"I remember him well," said Dicker.
(Josh Vlasto, a former press secretary to Chuck Schumer, is the son of James Vlasto, the former Carey aide.)
"Since the beginning of media, since the beginning of the printing press, the government has discussed and at times raised objections to coverage by the media," said Vlasto.
"Of course," said Dicker.
"I in fact remember when I was working for Senator Schumer," Vlasto said, "and [Bamberger] was at Channel 2, raising objections with Channel 2's coverage of the senator, with him!"
The Cuomo press office, and Vlasto in particular, complain with unusual frequency about coverage of the governor.
As Joe Pompeo reported in October, Albany reporters "have in particular objected to what they perceive as Vlasto's slurs on their ethics or professionalism, employed they believe to knock down stories ad hominem, and often, they have argued, when Cuomo's office must have known the stories were substantially true."