Newsom Must Fire Peter Ragone

by Randy Shaw on February 8, 2007


After Mayor Newsom’s admission to having an affair with a city employee, some joked that the media got the story from the mayor’s communication director Peter Ragone. Ragone was under intense media scrutiny for using a false name in sending e-mails to media websites, and for then lying about it to cover up his conduct. The Newsom sex scandal took Ragone’s problems out of the limelight. But if Ragone appreciated the mayor’s getting him off the hook, he has a funny way of showing it. Asked by the media if the mayor lied to him about the affair, Ragone responded: “Yes.” If Willie Brown press spokesperson P.J. Johnston had ever been asked that question, I guarantee you that he would have allowed himself to be tortured before calling his boss a liar.

After his association with Governor Gray Davis’ inept media team, Peter Ragone must have been doing cartwheels when he was hired as Mayor Newsom’s Communications Director. But Ragone has embarrassed the Mayor over his own lies to the media, and now has sought to hang his boss out to dry by telling the media that Newsom “lied “ to him about his affair.

My comments above about how Brown press spokesperson P.J. Johnston would have handled such a question were serious. Johnston was so deeply loyal to the mayor who gave him a plum assignment and took care of him that it is inconceivable that he would say anything negative about Brown, not to mention calling him out publicly as a liar.

I would make the same statement about Scott Shafer, Mayor Art Agnos’ press secretary. I simply cannot imagine Shafer ever speaking publicly ill of his boss, and the current KQED-FM journalist would never, ever call have called Agnos a liar.

The difference between Ragone, and Johnston and Shafer is simple.

It’s called loyalty.

Ragone turned on Newsom so fast he was like a rat fleeing a sinking ship. Both Johnston and Shafer would have been by their bosses’ side as they struggled to expel water from their liferaft..

The fact that Newsom did not fire Ragone over his false emails and lying to the press did nothing to increase Ragone’s loyalty to the mayor. Instead, he engaged in a shocking display of disloyalty.

Ragone’s continued employment with the Mayor’s Office is a disturbing sign of Newsom’s current problems. If Ragone had pulled that trick under Mayor Brown, he not only would be out of a job, he would never get another political job for a Democrat in California.

As Gavin Newsom fights for his political life, Peter Ragone is too preoccupied trying to clear his own reputation to offer the Mayor help.

To begin regaining control of the city, the Mayor must fire Ragone and replace him with a spokesperson that puts Newsom’s interests ahead of his own.

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