New N.Y. Gov Tells All at Press Conference

Gov. Paterson and his wife say they both cheated, but she cheated first.

February 10, 2009, 6:28 PM

NEW YORK, March 18, 2008— -- The New York governor's office sounded like the set for a soap opera today as the new governor announced he has had a series of extramarital affairs that he says were born out of jealousy over his wife's cheating.

Gov. David Paterson's pronouncement came a day after his swearing-in and an initial bombshell declaration that he had once cheated on his wife.

His news conference today was held to make clear that both he and his wife, Michelle, had had more than one affair.

Paterson became governor Monday, replacing Eliot Spitzer, who left office two days ago in disgrace for having spent thousands of dollars on hookers.

In making his revelations, Paterson appeared to set a new standard for elected officials by saying that he was coming clean so that he could not be "blackmailed." Paterson also said he and his wife answered detailed questions about their cheating ways because New Yorkers deserve to know the truth about their representatives.

The couple agreed at the Albany news conference that both had more than one affair and that Michelle was the first to be unfaithful.

"I was angry and jealous and I exercised poor judgment," said Paterson in explaining why he had affairs with several women from 1999 to 2001.

The governor emphasized that he never used campaign or government funds for any of his liaisons.

He denied doing favors for the women, including at least one who worked in state government but did not work for him. Paterson conceded that he assisted one person who asked him to speak to someone about some medical problems.

Paterson's remarkable tell-all, with his wife at his side, follows the shocking downfall of Spitzer, who was caught patronizing high-priced prostitutes. And across the river in New Jersey, the sordid divorce of former governor Jim McGreevey continues to hit new lows as the now gay governor claims that he and his former wife used to engage in sexual trysts with one of his drivers.

Paterson said, however, that he decided he should salvage his marriage.

"One day, I realized it and decided to go to counseling and work through these problems with Michelle," Paterson said.

"I wanted our relationship to work and after a period of time, we were able to patch things up. We have a marriage like many Americans, maybe even many of you," he said, indicating the reporters and photographers assembled at the press conference in Albany.

"I was in love with Michelle even when I knew the marriage was in grave danger," Paterson said, adding that better communication has brought them closer. "Both of us have a great deal of sensitivity for what we put each other through."

In addition, they emphasized their desire to show their children that they could work through the problems in their marriage.

"The message I wanted to send my children is that in marriage you have peaks and valleys and I want to show them how you get through them," Michelle Paterson said.

Infidelity experts told ABC that it is rare for a marriage to survive when both spouses cheat.

"Generally when something like this happens, it's the beginning of a downward spiral for the marriage," says Ruth Houston, author of "Is He Cheating on You?"

Having a second spouse cheat is usually prompted by the desire for revenge, she said. Houston says that there is a greater chance for recovery when just one partner cheats.

"But if they both cheat, now you have each one distrustful of the other," she says.

"Now each one has to earn the trust of the other. Both of them will have that fear that the cheating might still be going on. Counseling is instrumental in a case like that. They have to be guided through what to expect in terms of rebuilding their relationship, that it's not a quick fix but may take two years to fully recover their marriage."

The double cheating couple is even more rare in politics, according to political historians.

"I'm not aware of any instances like that," says Paul Apostolidis, political science professor at Whitman College and the co-editor of "Public Affairs: The Politics of Sex Scandals."

"The way that these scandals play out as public events brings to light rhythms of our public and political culture that run a lot more deeply than just the quirks of the individual cases."

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