NPR host challenges Cuomo to debate Palast
New York – With echoes of Fox News versus Al Franken, ex-Governor Mario Cuomo this week filed suit against Franken’s publisher, Penguin, over mention of the ex-politico in the New York Times bestseller, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.
Cuomo also sued the author, journalist Greg Palast for $15 million. Palast, whose award-winning stories appear on BBC television London has been called, “the most important investigative reporter of our time” (Tribune Magazine, UK). Palast has received numerous awards for his reports in The Guardian papers of Britain, and in the USA, for his investigations for Harpers and The Nation.
Palast said, “This is Fox and Franken Part II. It’s goofy. Katherine Harris called me, ‘twisted and maniacally partisan.’ Well, now here’s another politico gunning for me – all for reporting the news.”
“There are two Cuomos,” explained Palast, “Mario Jekyll and Mario Hyde. In public, Cuomo is the sanctimonious defender of the Bill of Rights and the working man, but here he’s a bully-boy allergic to the First Amendment.”
THE NPR CHALLENGE
Northeast Public Radio host Alan Chartock has offered Cuomo a chance to debate Palast on First Amendment issues raised by his lawsuit. Chartock, who co-hosted a radio program with Cuomo for 18 years, “is offering the Governor and me a chance to set the record straight,” said Palast.
“Will Cuomo cower and hide behind lawyers, or will he step out and defend his conduct in the American way?” said Palast, who has accepted Chartock’s challenge.
Palast looks forward to the chance to review until-now secret files of communications between the Governor, his political donors and benefactors.
Palast said that, “Cuomo wants $15 million from me. Maybe I can take it from my kids’ lunch money. But what’s millions to a guy who, after living on the public’s checkbook for years, has a nice pad on Sutton Place care of his cushy job with a big shot law firm.”
As to Cuomo’s complaint, Palast said, “I’m not infallible; if I made a mistake on the facts, I’ll correct it. But in this case, I’m right on the facts. Cuomo’s attempt to censor reports published in the public interest will not intimidate me. Thankfully, I have the support of my publisher.”
The dispute centers on the period when Palast was chief investigator in the Suffolk County, New York, government’s successful prosecution of the civil racketeering case against the builders of the Shoreham nuclear plant. Long Island electricity customers received approximately $400 million in compensation in settlement of the civil case brought after Palast’s discovery of alleged frauds. Palast’s report regards then-Governor Cuomo’s involvement in that 1988 litigation.
“The real issue,” said Palast, “is the right of a reporter to write the facts to the best of his knowledge free of the fear of financially ruinous lawsuits and intimidation.”
Palast, recipient of the Financial Times David Thomas Prize and winner of Britain’s ‘story of the year’ for his undercover investigation of Prime Minister Tony Blair, previously won accolades from Cuomo. Palast received a mounted pen from Cuomo’s signing of the Long Island Power Authority Act which put the owner of Shoreham out of business.
Palast said, “Cuomo accuses me of calling him ‘corrupt.’ He must be reading some other book – the word does not appear in mine. He is clearly uncomfortable about press scrutiny of his conduct. He has chosen to mischaracterize and coerce rather than debate and open the records.”
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Greg Palast’s broadcasts for BBC Television and his columns for Britain’s Guardian papers can be seen at www.GregPalast.com. THE BEST DEMOCRACY MONEY CAN BUY has been on the New York Times bestseller list for more than six months this year.