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Gray Davis, Closet Wacko

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I generally think that Californians know enough about Gray Davis to have decided long ago whether they should vote ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ on the recall ballot. If not, they certainly should. For that matter, I think that they knew all of this back in November when they re-elected him last time.

Still, the recall election is Tuesday, and evidently just before the weekend before the election is the best time to plant meaningless personal stories about your least-favorite candidate. I haven’t even lived in California in ten years, but I was annoyed when he blamed all Texans for California’s energy crisis, so what the heck. I’ll do my part to spread perfectly factual gossip about the man, as if it matters.

Jill Stewart wrote an article for the New Times LA (no longer in print) back on November 27, 1997, that revealed much about the personal character of then-Lieutenant Governor Gray Davis. A word of warning: The following article contains foul language. If you’re easily offended, well, California politics just isn’t for you.

Closet Wacko Vs. Mega-Fibber
Jill Stewart

I have this file, labeled Gray Davis, that for the last few years I’ve been stuffing with all the bizarre little tales that are quietly shared among journalists and political insiders about the man who, though probably viewed as a blandly pleasant talking head by most Californians, is in fact one of the strangest ducks ever elected to statewide office.

Long protected by editors at the Los Angeles Times—who have nixed every story Times reporters have ever tried to develop about Davis’s storied history of physical violence, unhinged hysteria and gross profanity—the baby-faced, dual personality Davis has been allowed to hold high public office with impunity.

Perhaps you are among the millions never told of Lieutenant Governor Davis’s widely known—but long unreported—penchant for physically attacking members of his own staff. His violent tantrums have occurred throughout his career, from his days as Chief of Staff for Jerry Brown to his long stint as State Controller to his current job.

Davis’s hurling of phones and ashtrays at quaking government employees and his numerous incidents of personally shoving and shaking horrified workers—usually while screaming the f-word “with more venom than Nixon” as one former staffer recently reminded me—bespeak a man who cannot be trust with power. Since his attacks on subservients are not exactly “domestic violence,” they suggest to me the need for new lexicon that is sufficiently Dilbertesque. I would therefore like to suggest “office batterer” for consideration as you observe Davis in his race for governor.

The most disturbing aspect of Davis’s troubled side is the ease with which the power elite in California, many of whom know he is unbalanced, laugh off the long public deception that has created Davis’s public persona. “He’ll never be governor,” one well-known Democratic state senator explained to me last year, justifying his own failure to criticize or out Davis. “He’ll never be the Democratic nominee,” the senator insisted.

And that’s certainly how things stood, in my own mind, until Davis announced his intention to run for governor.

So the story was well-known, but nobody bothered to really come forward until it became clear the man wanted to be governor. Sounds familiar, and it makes sense to me.

“I guess Gray’s biggest lie,” says his former staffer who notes he often flies into a rage, “is pretending that he operates within the bounds of normalcy, which is not true. This is not a normal person. I will never forget the day he physically attacked me, because even though I knew he had done it before to many others, you always want to assume that Gray would never do it to you or that he has finally gotten help.”

On the day in question, in the mid-1990s, the staffer was explaining to Davis that his perpetual quest for an ever-larger campaign chest (an obsession she says led Davis to routinely break fundraising laws by using his government office resources and non-political employees to arrange fundraisers and identify new sources of money) had run into a snafu. A major funding source had dried up. Recalls the former staffer: “He just went into one of his rants of, ‘Fuck the fucking fuck, fuck, fuck!'” I can still hear his screams ringing in my ears. When I stood up to insist that he not talk to me that way, he grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me until my teeth rattled. I was so stunned I said, ‘Good God, Gray! Stop and look at what you are doing! Think what you are doing to me!’ And he just could not stop.”

Perhaps the worst incident—long known to Davis-adoring editors of the Los Angeles Times but never published by them—was Davis’s attack four years ago on a loyal aide in Los Angeles who for years acted as chief apologist for his “incidents.”

The woman refuses to discuss the assault on her with the media, but has relayed much of the story to me through a close friend. On the day in question, State Controller Davis was raging over an employee’s rearranging of framed artwork on his Los Angeles office walls. He stormed, red-faced, out of his office and violently shoved the woman, who we shall call K., out of his way. According to employees who were present, K. ran out clutching her purse, suffered an emotional breakdown, was briefly hospitalized at Cedars Sinai for a severe nervous dermatological reaction, and never returned to work again.

According to one close friend, K. refused to sue Davis, despite the advice of several friends, after a prominent Los Angeles attorney told her that Davis would ruin her. According to one state official. K. was allowed to continue her work under Davis from her home “because she refused to work in Davis’s presence.”

(Checchi’s [Davis’ opponent at the time] campaign should get a copy of the tape recording Davis left on K.’s home telephone, in which he offers no apology to K. but simply requests that she return to work, saying, “You know how I am.”

Well, we do now Gray.

Actually, this sounds more and more familiar the more I read. As I’ve opined elsewhere, I believe that Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn’t really have a lack of respect for women, he disrespects most human beings of either gender. Sounds like a common problem in this governor’s race.

The nearly-final statement in the article is a real corker. Remember, this was written six years ago!

So my question is simple: how did we get stuck in the position of hoping that the job of governor of California, one of the most august positions of power in the Western world, is not won by a mega-fibber or a closet wacko.

When is that not the case?

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  • I heard this…I think it’s terrible. So much for my decision to vote ‘No’ on the recall.

    I didn’t vote for him the first time anyway.

  • The L.A. Times didn’t report on these rumors largely because they didn’t meet the standards they used for the Schwarzengroper story.

    That story used some anonymous sources, but always spoken to directly by the Times and corroborated by named sources.

    Jill Stewart’s 1997 story has one named source for one incident. The other incident is neither directly reported nor corroborated. It’s not only anonymous–it’s a friend-of-a-friend thing.

    If you read the L.A. Times story, you’ll see that none of the six incidents of Schwarzengroping they report on are based on anything so shaky.

    The Times editors said they had plenty of other leads about A.S. sexual-harassment incidents, but they couldn’t corroborate them to their satisfaction in the seven weeks they had for the investigation (this election doesn’t have anything near the lead time that a typical election would–it’s not the Times’ fault that the story is being published when it is).

    Arnold’s behavior follows a pattern that is confirmed time and again by witnesses not connected to each other or involved with partisan politics. The Gray Davis rumors reported by Jill Stewart simply don’t meet that standard.

  • ME: Goose, meet Gander.

    GOOSE: No! My feathers are completely different, and the coloration is all wrong!

    ME: What was that about raising the standard of evidence again?

    GOOSE: But that’s different! It’s DIFFERENT!

    ME: The 1997 sources said they were afraid to come forward, as did the 2003 sources. How is that different? More importantly, what the heck does either issue have to do with job performance, the issue at hand?

    GOOSE: It just does, that’s all.

    ME: Sorry, buddy, your goose is probably cooked.

  • So let’s see:

    Gray is a psycho

    Arnold is a perv

    Cruz supports a 5th-Column organization

    And McClintock can’t win

    Why can’t McClintock win? Please? Pretty please?

  • 6 sources
    all directly spoke to the Times
    all corroborated by other, named parties


    2 sources
    1 directly spoke with Jill Stewart
    1 spoke through an intermediary
    neither is corroborated by a named party

    If you’d like the L.A. Times to lower its editorial standards to Stewart’s level, you can send them a letter with your request. If they grant your request, though, they’re going to need a lot more paper to print all of the (hundreds? thousands?) of A.S. stories that meet the lower standard.