New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver did not appreciate it when the New York Times wrote a lengthy story about how he stalled the construction of low-income housing in the Lower East Side for decades. But instead of ignoring the piece, or expressing contrition, or firing off a bland press release, Sheldon Silver decided to lie. To the New York Times.
No, Speaker Silver said, the Times had it wrong. He didn't fight the housing with the United Jewish Council of the East Side—another attorney named Sheldon E. Silver did.
“I was forever confused with this guy,” Mr. Silver said at a breakfast he hosted on Thursday at the state Democratic Party convention. “Even after he left there, I got phone calls from people who I knew.”
Mr. Silver’s spokesman, Michael Whyland, said in an email that the other Mr. Silver “was a counsel to U.J.C. in the ‘70s and early ‘80s.”
“You can understand why he would be upset,” Mr. Whyland said in a subsequent telephone call.
When the Times produced evidence, including a letter showing Speaker Silver's objections to the housing under his letterhead, the Speaker's office stopped asking the Times for a correction, but pointed to two UJC letters with Sheldon E. Silver's name on it. Yet Sheldon E. Silver's widow, Shoshana, eliminates any doubts that Speaker Silver is trying to pin these actions on her dead husband.
Ms. Silver, now 66, said her husband did indeed briefly hold a job with the newly formed United Jewish Council right about the time he was admitted to practice law in New York, in June 1973. He was let go by the group by early 1974.
If anything written on behalf of the council had Mr. Silver’s name on it after 1974, it had nothing to do with her husband, she said.
“It was only six or nine months, a very short period of time,” Ms. Silver said. “They needed him because they were just starting up, but once they got up and going, I guess they didn’t need him anymore.”
She succinctly describes why Speaker Silver might try and blame her husband: “I guess he doesn’t want to take responsibility for those things."
The Times calls Speaker Silver "a master at distancing himself from controversies and scandals in his chamber," but they'd better serve their readers if they called him what he is in this case: a liar.
Speaker Silver's press office has not yet returned a request for comment.