Kauffmann’s response, which in contrast to most of Gormley’s promptly returned e-mails, came after an eight hour delay, probably wasn’t what Gormley had been hoping for.
Gormley then wrote and sent an e-mail to Kauffmann that not only did he later claim he never meant to send, but one that he would eventually write “took far more poetic license than was reality in describing the internal discussions.”
But just which portions were “poetic license” is unclear. It is unlikely that every point in Gormley’s original e-mail is fiction. Sent on Thursday, February 11, it provides a timeline and other details that match up with Gormley and Kauffmann’s e-mail traffic from Super Bowl Sunday. It is an emotional telling of struggles with editors over how to appropriately cover the story, where Gormley portrays himself as pushing back against editors who wanted more a more salacious dispatch than he felt the situation and reportable facts merited, and who wanted to run a story without what Gormley considered adequate comment from the governor’s camp.
Michael Gormley did not respond to requests for comment on the e-mails, and Paul Colford, an AP spokesperson, declined to make Gormley or the relevant editors available to discuss the matter. Instead he e-mailed a brief statement describing Gormley as “hard-nosed reporter who was trying to be fair and accurate in his coverage of the governor” and declining to “discuss the internal give and take among staffers in pursuing stories.”
The original Gormley e-mail opened with some unloading on the state of affairs in Albany, and then moved to a promise to dish him some dirt about what happened at the AP on Super Bowl Sunday:
Gormley then claimed that on Super Bowl Sunday he was facing heavy pressure from “a top editor” to run a story “that simply said, based on a rumor from a reporter who heard it from a tabloid reporter, that the governor was going to resign” and that the “same sourcing told” the editor that State Assembly Speaker Shelley Silver had asked Paterson to step down. The Silver rumor, and the assertion that the “tabs” are on it, is cited in Gormley e-mail’s around noon to Kauffmann.
Gormley wrote that the was able to share reporting with this editor that showed the Silver and resignation rumors weren’t true, but that that only had “slowed his assumption down.”
In Gormley’s original e-mail, he also wrote that things came to a head when editors pressured him to move a story at 8:15 that night that did not contain what he judged to be adequate comment from the governor’s camp. Gormley wrote that only two minutes before the article was set to run he told the editors that without Kauffmann’s comment on the record he was withdrawing his byline, effectively killing the piece. This 8:15 deadline, and a desperate attempt to get comment by it, is also reflected in the released Super Bowl Sunday e-mail traffic.
Gormley claimed that his efforts that night “blocked” a story that “everyone was ready to do,” and even quoted the slug for this claimed spiked story: “ALBANY _ Gov. David Paterson is considering resigning amid persistent rumors about his personal behavior.”
The e-mail closed with a paragraph-by-paragraph defense of the fairness to the governor of the story the wire ultimately ran.
About three hours after he sent the original e-mail giving a detailed accounting of the AP’s inner struggles on Super Bowl night, Gormley e-mailed Kauffman, saying that the original e-mail had been a draft he never meant to send.
The version he asked Kauffmann to consider in its stead omitted all details of internal deliberations, briskly moving on to the Gormley’s defense of the story the AP ran.
On Friday, in the message where he further distanced himself from the detailed narrative presented in Thursday’s original e-mail by claiming he’d used “poetic license,” Gormley wrote Kauffmann that the original e-mail was written “to make the case for my efforts and win back your trust,” contradicting a claim in the original e-mail where he claimed he wasn’t spilling the details for “credit.”
In the previous weeks, Gormley and Kauffmann were exchanging beer league softball stories over e-mail, and joking about the agony of having to sit though thirty-some minutes of ABC’s The View before the Governor took to the couch for a January appearance. In the Friday e-mail where Gormley claimed that he’d taken unjustifiable poetic license, he described what prompted him to write the draft.
Gormley closed by saying that “despite what I like to say about the accuracy of what I print, my email account was just wrong in tone and content,” apologized again, and then asked Kauffmann out for beers.
The e-mails do not reflect if they ever met to drink any.