Paterson Implies ‘Accidental’ Racism

Jacob Gershman, New York Sun, July 18, 2008

Governor Paterson, who became New York’s first black governor following the resignation of Eliot Spitzer, is lashing out at the press for describing him as an “accidental governor,” implying in a speech that the term’s frequent usage was motivated by racial bias.

In a speech at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s annual convention in Cincinnati, Mr. Paterson also suggested that the defeat of Senator Obama by Senator McCain in the presidential contest would be a victory for racism.

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Yesterday, [Mr. Paterson] let it be known that he no longer wants to be called accidental, saying the term has not been applied to white governors and presidents who took office under emergency circumstances.

“I am known as New York’s accidental governor. I would like to point out a couple of facts: The two adjoining states to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, have had three government changes in the last five years. None of those people were called the accidental governor,” he said.

“Nobody called Teddy Roosevelt an accidental president. Nobody called Truman an accidental president. And nobody called LBJ an accidental anything. So why was this non-illustrious title held all of these years for me? I will leave the answer to all of you and the Freudians in the audience because I haven’t had the chance to think about it,” he said.

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For instance, Richard Codey, who filled in as governor of New Jersey for James McGreevey after the latter resigned in a sex scandal, was described as an “accidental governor” by the Philadelphia Inquirer, the New York Observer (in a story headlined “the Return of an Accidental Governor), the Washington Post, the Star-Ledger (in several articles), the Associated Press, and the New York Times.

President Johnson was the subject of a 1967 book by Robert Sherrill called “The Accidental President.” A 2001 book about President Bush and the 2000 election race by David Kaplan was titled, “The Accidental President: How 413 Lawyers, 9 Supreme Court Justices, and 5,963,110 Floridians (Give or Take a Few) Landed George W. Bush in the White House.”

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“Can America reject the crucible of race that has dictated and pervaded all of our history to embrace an African-American man who has the right polices for the next decade in this country?” [Mr. Paterson] said.

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