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July 23, 2005

Fields Fall Guy gets West Side Dog Scraps

Joseph Mercurio, fired by the Virginia Fields campaign for his alleged involvement in doctoring a photograph in the famous Fields Photogate flier, has landed a job with Carlos Manzano, perhaps the weakest and most laughable candidate to succeed Virginia Fields as Manhattan Borough President.

Manzano has never held public office as is seen as a tool of the West Side McManus Democratic Club (which often endorses Republicans). Manzano may need Mercurio's Photoshop expertise. Here's an actual Manzano flier.

Some comments to Mercurio's new job on The Politicker include:

After all it is Friday -- Wayne Barrett (if he's on tonight) needs some new jokes for Reporter's Roundtable. Now he has two.

I think what Rangel meant was that Mercurio would never work for a serious political candidate in this town again... and so far he remains correct.

He's no fall guy. He was stupid (or desparate) enough to work for Fields and now Manzano. How many would actually admit they talked Fields into running?

It's good to know that my taxpayer dollars are paying Carlos Manzano to hire a new political consultant for his pathetic campaign effort.

Posted by Merkookio at 12:19 PM | TrackBack

July 22, 2005

Despite Virginia Fields Pledge to Create a Deputy Mayor for Full Employment, her Campaign Treasurer was Guilty of Intentionally Underpaying Workers

C. Virginia Fields campaign office is located at 123 West 126th Street in a building owned by Milton E. Wilson, who is also the campaign's treasurer.

Wilson also owns W. Property Resources Inc., a contracting firm that was found to have committed "Multiple Willfuls" in violating the New York State Labor Law for illegally underpaying employees, according to documents from the New York State Department of Labor and the NYC Comptroller's office -- and as reported July 22nd by Newsday.

As part of a guilty plea arrangement, Wilson paid a fine and is prohibited from bidding on government contracts for five years, until August 2006.

In a May 6 interview on WNBC, Fields claimed that, if elected, she would create a Deputy Mayor for Full Employment. Such a pledge seems at odds with the practices of her Campaign Treasurer.

For the Newsday article, click below or here.

For the NYS Dept. of Labor Debarred List, see excerpt below, or click here (page 30)


Under Article 8 of the NYS Labor Law, when two final determinations have been rendered against a contractor, sub-contractor and/or its successor within any consecutive six-year period determining that such contractor, subcontractor and/or its successor has WILLFULLY failed to pay the prevailing wage and/or supplements, or when one final determination involves falsification of payroll records or the kickback of wages and/or supplements, said contractor, subcontractor and/or its successor shall be debarred and ineligible to submit a bid on or be awarded any public work contract/sub-contract with the state, any municipal corporation or public body for a period of five years from the date of debarment. NOTE: Where the Fiscal Officer is denoted "NYC", the information has been provided by the New York City Comptroller's Office, the agency issuing the determination.


W Property Resources Inc
123 West 126th Street
New York NY 10027
FEIN: 13-3462866
Barred Until: 08/16/2006

Fiscal Officer Notes: NYC Multiple willfuls

For the Newsday article, click below.

Company run by Fields' treasurer intentionally underpaid employees
by Glenn Thrush
July 22, 2005

A construction company run by the treasurer of C. Virginia Fields' mayoral campaign is barred from bidding on government contracts after intentionally underpaying six employees by $286,000, Newsday has learned.

Harlem businessman Milton Wilson, owner of W. Property Resources, failed to pay prevailing wages and benefits to five laborers and a mason for work done on police station houses, schools and a homeless shelter several years ago, according to a 2001 investigation by the city comptroller's office.

Two of the workers were shorted $76,200 and $72,300, respectively, over an unspecified period, according to the document.

In a payment agreement signed on Aug. 16, 2001, Wilson admitted to "multiple willful violations" of state labor law, which resulted in an automatic five-year ban from soliciting city or state contracts. The ban expires in August 2006, according to the state labor department.

Wilson's company also was ordered to pay a $28,600 fine to then-city Comptroller Alan Hevesi.

Fields has positioned herself as an ally of labor and the working poor. The Fields' campaign is already reeling from revelations that it electronically inserted images of Asians into a campaign flyer.

Last week, Fields' former consultant, Joe Mercurio, accused Wilson and campaign manager Chung Seto of pushing him to release the flyer.

Fields, who is the only mayoral candidate not to pay most of her staff's health insurance, has struggled to keep up with the brisk fund-raising pace set by her three Democratic primary opponents.

Several calls Thursday to Wilson's business and home were not returned.

A Fields' spokeswoman, Kirsten Powers, said the borough president has known Wilson for more than 20 years and considers him a friend.

"He had a business dispute involving wages," she added. "He reached a settlement with the city and he paid the fine."

The violations stem from regulations intended to protect workers for government-paid vendors. In order to bid for city contracts, businesses must first agree to pay workers a prevailing wage that varies by job and city agency. It's not clear how much Wilson's company was supposed to pay its workers or over what time period the underpayments occurred.

The underpaid employees performed renovation work on station houses in Manhattan's 10th and 26th precincts; PS 42 in Manhattan; PS 62, I.S 227 and Thomas Edison High School in Queens; PS 279 in the Bronx; and the Greenpoint Shelter in Brooklyn.

Posted by Merkookio at 06:32 AM | TrackBack

July 21, 2005

No Health Insurance for Fields Campaign Staff

Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields supports giving more New Yorkers health benefits--except if they work for her. Fields is the only candidate for mayor who is not providing insurance to campaign staffers, records show.

For the complete article, click below.

NY Post
July 21, 2005

MANHATTAN Borough President C. Virginia Fields supports giving more New Yorkers health benefits--except if they work for her. Fields is the only candidate for mayor who is not providing insurance to campaign staffers, records show.

"Perhaps Virginia's first step toward giving more New Yorkers health care should be to provide it to her own staff," sniped a source from one rival camp. All of Fields' campaign workers are considered "consultants" and therefore buy their own health coverage.

But Fields wrote an op-ed article last month saying that more must be done on health-care coverage. "Too many New Yorkers lack health-insurance coverage," Fields wrote in the piece calling on the city to use tobacco-suit settlement money for health programs.

"The tens of thousands of New Yorkers who are one health calamity away from economic devastation deserve whatever measures our city government can possibly take."

Fields spokesperson Kirsten Powers said health-care costs are factored into the consultants' fees.

Posted by Merkookio at 04:20 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 20, 2005

When the well runs dry

After the two week feeding frenzy over Photogate, the press is settling down somewhat and looking at Virginia Fields dire funding mess (although looking at her record as Borough President seems still far off).

It comes down to this: without money you're sinking fast.

Last week, Fields's Washington, D.C. fundraiser saw the headliner, Donna Brazile, back off with a lame excuse.

Yesterday, less than 10 contributers reportedly showed up at the Laugh Factory. We can only imagine there was more commiseration than mirth.

Perhaps Fields should just give it up and wait for Charlie Rangel to retire. Insider scuttlebut suggested that was her first option after a job with a Kerry administration evaporated. But now after suffering through Photogate, PaddyWagongate and who knows what might be in the offing, Virginia Fields is nothing more than damaged goods. What's worse than her miserable candidacy is watching it die a slow death.

Would it be that her demise came from a thorough scrutiny of her horrible record as Borough President, but politics (and the press) never seem to look very deep.

Today's reports (click on the link below for the articles):

Newsday: A funding problem for Fields?
She's running out of cash fast, spending twice as much as she has raised, with only $312,000 on hand, making it impossible to mount a credible operation. Even with expected matching funds, she pales in comparison to the other Democratic challengers.

New York Sun: Fields Campaign Needs Fund-Raising Base and Lacks a Defining Issue
Fields campaign can hardly maintain its footing despite the earlier surge. So it may be impossible for a candidate with no vision ... Even forcing a runoff seems out of the picture. Keith Wright: "I can guarantee there's a strategy..." which immediately relegates him to the 'what's he-smoking' category.

New York Times: Fields Camp, Trailing in Cash, Says Workers Have Been Paid

Appears the Fields campaign is dederring payments to ease cash-flow problems and create a false appearance of funding stability. According to the campaign, the workers just all happened to ask for their payments late ... all at the same time.

Daily News: Ex-aide: Fields' funds drying up
Mercurio says "Fields' campaign delayed paying employees to pump up her war chest on public filings ... The fund-raising was incompetent, toxic." So says Joe.

A funding problem for Fields?
by Glenn Thrush
July 18, 2005

Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields is running out of cash fast, burning through more than twice as much money as her mayoral campaign collected since May.

With less than 60 days before the Democratic primary, Fields has only about $312,000 on hand -- which could effectively prevent her from running TV ads or mounting a big direct mail operation, political watchers said.

"She will not be a presence on television until she raises much more money very quickly," said Hank Sheinkopf, a veteran Democratic consultant who isn't allied with any mayoral campaign this year. "She can still mount a reasonable field operation but she can't really do direct mail."

Fields' campaign manager Chung Seto said the borough president expects to get $1.4 million in matching funds from the board before the Sept. 13 primary, cash she'll use to hit the airwaves.

"We will continue to raise money," Seto added. "Virginia has always won races where she's been told she has little resources."

The Fields campaign raised only about $184,000 in the last two months, while spending more than $400,000 on staff salaries, polling, fund-raising and other expenses.

About $99,000 of her spending went to San Francisco-based Winning Directions, the firm that produced a now-infamous flier featuring a pair of Asian-Americans who were digitally inserted into a photo of the candidate.

The campaign's top consultant, Joseph Mercurio, was fired over the mailing, but maintains Fields signed off on its release.

All three of Fields' rivals in the Democratic mayoral race out-raised her during the same period and all have far more cash on hand, according to board records. City Council Speaker Gifford Miller (D-Manhattan) has about $2.8 million and Queens Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn-Queens) has about $1.7 million.

As of May, former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer had around $2.5 million.

The New York Sun
by Hadi Fa Rahani
July 19, 2005

Just three months ago, the Manhattan borough president, C. Virginia Fields, was surging in the public opinion polls and had won an endorsement from one of the city's most influential black leaders, Rep. Charles Rangel.

Now, however, her campaign is struggling to regain its footing after an embarrassing doctored photograph scandal, the firing of its top campaign adviser, a string of bad press, and a fund-raising operation lagging behind all of its rivals.

With $1.6 million in contributions and more than $1.3 million spent, Ms. Fields has raised less money and burned through her cash at a faster clip than the three other candidates running in the Democratic primary.

Political analysts have said it could be difficult for Ms. Fields, the only black candidate and woman in the race, to make up for lost fund-raising ground and to overcome her campaign's internal troubles. Her campaign spokeswoman, Kirsten Powers, said the campaign will have "enough money to do what we need to do."

Yet if Ms. Fields doesn't increase her existing pool of "matchable money," she could be short of the cash she needs to launch an aggressive television advertising campaign and to send out direct mail in the weeks leading up to the primary. Though campaign officials were tight-lipped about their strategy, there is no doubt the Fields camp will have to come up with new, innovative techniques for reaching voters if the funds don't materialize.

Political analysts said the fund-raising woes could be compounded by the fact the borough president has not articulated a discernable vision of how she would change things in the city if she won.

"The Fields campaign right now, and this is less true of the other major campaigns, does not have a defining issue," a political science professor at Baruch College, David Birdsell, said.

"As a result, what's left is the candidate,"he said."To a certain extent,this is a classic New York identity political campaign. Whether that will be enough to force a runoff, we don't know right now. If the electorate votes down racially and ethnically divided lines, she has a shot."

Ms. Fields, who was raised in Birmingham, Ala., during segregation and made her first push into advocacy during the civil rights movement, where she marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., has made plenty of appearances with black leaders and used her upbringing as a selling point in her campaign material.

Most political consultants agree that she will need a high turnout from black voters to hold the Democratic front-runner, Fernando Ferrer, below 40% of the vote in the primary and force a runoff.

"I think her strategy has been to hope and trust that she'll have an affinity with African-American voters and to make a pitch to Latino voters in Manhattan,particularly to wean Dominican voters in Washington Heights from Freddy Ferrer," the director of the Center for Urban Research at the City University of New York, John Mollenkopf, said.

Assemblyman Keith Wright, a Democrat who represents northern Manhattan - and is running to replace Ms. Fields as borough president, said he was confident she would surge ahead and pointed out that she has consistently placed second in the polls.

"I've known this woman for over 20 years," Mr. Wright said. "We have walked the streets together, we have campaigned together.You don't underestimate this woman. She gets it done."

Ms. Fields has also donated money from her campaign to local and national women's groups and tapped them as another natural constituency.

So far, that has paid off to some degree. While her opponents are getting more support from men than women, Ms. Fields's numbers are reversed. The keynote speaker at her first major fundraiser was Jeanne Shaheen, the former governor of New Hampshire and national chairwoman pf Senator Kerry's presidential campaign.

"Virginia is herself a trained strategist," Mr. Wright said. "I can guarantee there's a strategy, whether they are sharing it or not is another thing. It's like being in a football huddle. You don't want to tell the other side what your plan is."

Fields Camp, Trailing in Cash, Says Workers Have Been Paid
New York Times
by Randal C. Archibold and Jim Rutenberg
July 20, 2005

For months, the mayoral campaign of C. Virginia Fields has typically paid many of its consultants at the beginning of the month, dutifully registering the payments in its campaign finance filings every two months.

But in the latest filing, the campaign, wrestling with money problems, showed no entries for several consultants, who normally would have been paid a total of at least $24,000. That set off speculation in political circles that the campaign was deferring the payments to ease its short-term financial health.

Not so, insist Fields campaign officials. Everybody who was owed money - including Chung Seto, the campaign manager ($13,350) and William McCaffrey, an adviser ($3,000) - has been paid within the past week, said Kirsten Powers, Ms. Fields's press secretary.

"I have my check sitting right at home," said Ms. Powers, who added she was paid $10,000 on Friday but has not yet cashed it because of a technical problem with her bank.

Ms. Powers said the consultants were paid when they submitted their invoices; the payments did not show up on the campaign finance report, she said, because the consultants happened to have requested payment later in the month than they had in previous months.

Ms. Fields's campaign has been suffering financially.

While she is in second place in the polls among the four Democrats running for the chance to face Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, she recently reported the lowest amount of money raised among them during the latest two-month period, $184,000. The leader, Anthony D. Weiner, a congressman from Brooklyn and Queens who has been third or fourth in most polls, raised $305,000 in the period.

The other Democratic candidates are Gifford Miller, the City Council president, and Fernando Ferrer, the former Bronx borough president who has been leading the Democratic field in polls.

Ms. Fields has raised a total of $1.7 million, qualifying for $361,000 in matching funds, but has been spending money as fast as she has raised it, leaving only $311,000 on hand as the campaign goes into the final weeks before the Sept. 13 primary.

As problems continued to plague many of his Democratic opponents, Mr. Bloomberg's campaign received another dose of good news yesterday, in the form of a Quinnipiac University poll showing his approval rating at 60 percent, and at 58 percent even among Democrats. The approval figure was the highest it has been in more than three years, according to Maurice Carroll, director of the university's Polling Institute.

The poll, with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points, showed Mr. Bloomberg beating Mr. Ferrer by 16 points in a two-way race. The poll also shows him defeating each of the other three - Ms. Fields, Mr. Weiner and Mr. Miller - by 25 or 26 percentage points.

There was some good news for Mr. Miller. The poll showed him closing the gap with Ms. Fields among Democratic voters, with 15 percent support to her 16 percent. Mr. Ferrer remains comfortably in the lead among Democrats, with 33 percent.

Mike McIntire contributed reporting for this article.

Ex-aide: Fields' funds drying up
New York Daily News
by Michael Saul
July 20, 2005

Virginia Fields' money-strapped mayoral campaign has delayed paying employees to pump up her war chest on public filings, her former consultant charged yesterday.

Joseph Mercurio, who has been feuding with Fields since she fired him over a doctored photo used in her campaign flyers, said her fund-raising has lagged from the start.

He told the Daily News that he advised Fields in April to fire fund-raising consultant Leonore Blitz, but Fields refused.

"The fund-raising was incompetent, toxic," said Mercurio.

The Manhattan borough president has raised $1.7 million and spent nearly $1.4 million, leaving her with $311,901 in her campaign war chest.

By contrast, City Council Speaker Gifford Miller leads the Democratic pack with more than $2.9 million cash on hand; former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer has $2.3 million, and Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn, Queens) has $1.9 million.

Blitz called Mercurio's barbs outrageous, and Fields' spokeswoman Kirsten Powers denied paychecks were being held up.

"People submit their invoices, and they get paid when they submit their invoices," Powers said, adding the campaign will ultimately have "the money to do what we need to do."

Posted by Merkookio at 04:20 PM | TrackBack

Famous Broadway Flops

Frankenstein - 1981
Moose Murders - 1983
Teaneck Tanzi - 1983
Carrie - 1988
Virginia Fields - 2005

According to Newsday, Virginia Fields' Tuesday night fundraiser at the Times Square Laugh Factory, infamous scene of Fields rendition of the Jefferson's theme song, "Movin' on up," was on course to attract less than 10 people. That's 10 people in a house that seats 300.

With the price of fundraiser's admission being $100, if lucky, the Fields campaign might have raised close to $1,000 and maybe even covered the cost of renting the room.

Almost makes one nostalgic for Moose Murders (here and here), which is perhaps, the perfect metaphor for the Virginia Fields candidacy.

For the Newsday report -- and a review of Moose Murders -- click below.

Fields fund-raiser flounders
Glenn Thrush
July 20, 2005

Money-challenged mayoral candidate C. Virginia Fields just can't seem to catch a break. Last night's fund-raiser at Manhattan's Laugh Factory, which was expected to draw about 50 people, was on pace to garner fewer than 10, according to a person close to Fields. Campaign officials had no comment on the event's outcome.

Fields' supporters were still working the phones all afternoon to fill the vacant seats for the 6:30 p.m. event, according to the source who witnessed several of the calls.

A Fields spokeswoman had no comment on the fund-raiser. But the campaign fiercely denied an allegation that some workers delayed their salaries so a recent filing with the city Campaign Finance Board would show an artificially inflated $312,000 cash on hand.

"There's just no truth to that," said Fields spokeswoman Kirsten Powers, who said consultants were paid based on when they submitted invoices. "I got paid, we all got paid, when we submitted invoices," she said.

Unlike all other candidates, Fields employs consultants, not salaried staff, saving on health insurance and other fringe benefits.

Moose Talk
By: Peter Filichia

You know what today is, don't you? It's Washington's Birthday, of course...but I'm talking theatrically. And every theatrical savant worth his salt can tell you that, 19 years ago today, Moose Murders opened at the Eugene O'Neill. (Today is also, of course, the 19th anniversary of Moose Murders' closing at the Eugene O'Neill).

Moose Murders, by Arthur Bicknell. Directed by John Roach (though somehow I remember Norman René's name originally attached.). Starring Eve Arden--for one preview, anyway, before Holland Taylor took over. Kent Shelton was credited not with providing "stage combat" but "stage violence." The musical supervisor was Ken Lundie, who must have wished that he were Mr. Lundie in Brigadoon so that he wouldn't have to show his face for the next 100 years.

I attended an early preview of the show, weeks before the opening-slash-closing. I opened the program to discover that the characters I'd meet included Snooks and Howie Keene, Joe Buffalo Dance, Nurse Dagmar, Hedda and Stinky Holloway. Who could ask for anything more? Well, I could, as soon as the curtain went up on a rustic lodge in which several moose heads were mounted. "Though the heads may be hunting trophies," Frank Rich of the New York Times would later write, "one cannot rule out the possibility that these particular moose committed suicide shortly after being shown the script that trades on their good name."

The show began with Howie, a blind man, playing an electric piano as his wife Snooks shook her tush at us while she sang "Jeepers, Creepers"--a song which, incidentally, my Catholic school nuns urged us not to sing because it mocked Jesus Christ. (Who knew? Well, my nuns always believed they knew everything.) The next character in was someone who, perhaps, agreed with the nuns, for he pulled the plug on the piano...but not the show. It wasn't long before I pulled the plug--soon after Joe Buffalo Dance, a Native American dressed to look the part, spoke in an Irish brogue, and immediately following a totally bandaged quadriplegic's being rolled on stage in a wheelchair.

So when people ask me if I saw Moose Murders, I have to answer: "Yes and no." For I lasted--I mean this--11 minutes, still the shortest time I've ever spent at a show. Had I known the play would become infamous and not just another quick closer, I might have stayed on. But I'd been on a business trip, had schlepped my luggage to the theater, was sweaty and hungry and not in the mood to have my intelligence insulted any more than it had to be. So I missed the second-act scene that I heard about later, where the quadriplegic magically bolted from his wheelchair and kicked a moose-suited man below the belt.

Moose Murders has now and forever become an idiom for atrociousness. When Chess opened on Broadway, critic Joel Siegel of ABC called it "the Moose Murders of musicals." Michael Musto of The Village Voice compared the dull opening night party of The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle to the show; he was probably reminded of it because Bullwinkle is, after all, a moose. Glenn Loney of the New York Theatre Wire wrote three seasons ago, "The wonderful, admirable Judith Ivey has made a return to Broadway in Moose Murders. Actually, her rickety vehicle is titled Voices in the Dark." Robert Hofler in Variety, who didn't like Ivo Van Hove's revisionist look at A Streetcar Named Desire, said it was "for those who missed Moose Murders and Carrie." And speaking of Carrie: When that legendary disaster opened, Frank Rich said, "Only the absence of antlers separates the pig murders of Carrie from the Moose Murders of Broadway lore."

Frankly, Frank Rich's best observation about the show came in June of 1983, when he did a season wrap-up. It was the same semester that Noises Off triumphantly opened on Broadway, and Rich smartly noted that Nothing On--the very silly play-within-the-play in Noises Off--was pretty much analogous to Moose Murders in its ineptness. Of course, Noises Off was winking at incompetence while Moose Murders was playing it for real.

Still, those who were involved with Moose Murders have a sense of pride in having survived it. Casting agents Stuart Howard and Amy Schecter still list it in their bios. Lisa McMillan, who played Nurse Dagmar, and Mara Hobel, who had a minor role, do the same--adding for extra cachet that they appeared with Eve Arden. Production stage manager Clifford Schwartz refers to the show as "the blockbuster Moose Murders" in his credits.

Recently, I interviewed June Gable, who brought up out of the blue that she'd been Snooks in the show. "Eve Arden was a lovely woman," Gable remembered, "but it was very hard for her at the time to memorize lines. You'd be on stage, you'd wait for her to deliver her line, you'd see her eyes widen, and you'd go, 'Oh-oh.' But the whole thing was such a disaster, I've dined out on it for years--especially at Joe Allen's, where the poster has a central place on the Wall of Flops."

I mentioned the quadriplegic who came on totally bandaged. Gable did not remember him. "You know, thank God, I have very little memory of the show," she confessed. "It was an outrageous experience and it was one reason why I left the business shortly afterwards. I actually went to India and spent a year there searching for the meaning of life." (She's done better since; she has made several appearances on Friends as Estelle Leonard, Joey's tough agent. At the moment, Gable is at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick where she's portraying Dr. Gorgeous in The Sisters Rosensweig and is tearing down the house.)

I asked Gable if she knew that Moose Murders stunk by the time she got to page four. "I knew it was very weird," she conceded. "I didn't want to take the job, but my agent at the time said to take the money and run. They offered me so much--a real Broadway salary! Those were the days when I made decisions on a more superficial basis. Money?!" she growled, not unlike the way Lonny Price growled the word in "Franklin Shepard, Inc." "Awright! Okay! I took the job. As I was going through the [rehearsal] process, I did wind up thinking, 'What is this? What can this be?' I even wrote an article on Moose Murders for Esquire magazine." Gable promised to send me a copy but she hasn't yet; if she does, I'll let you know what it says.

Moose Murders may not have had as many lives as a cat, but there have been other productions. Whippany (NJ) Park High School did the show in 1990 and proudly advertised it as "'Broadway's ultimate disaster'--Frank Rich, The New York Times." Youngstown State University revived it, too, as did the Canyon Theatre Guild in Newhall, CA; the Kent Trumbull Theatre at Kent State University; the Ardmore (OK) Little Theatre; and my personal favorite, the Blue Slipper Dinner Theatre in Livingston, Montana.

And every year, in his suburban New Jersey home, Simon Saltzman--drama critic of a newspaper called US-1 that serves people who live near that highway--invites a bunch of friends to his house to read the script of Moose Murders to a number of head-shaking attendees.


New York Times
February 23, 1983

FROM now on, there will always be two groups of theatergoers in this world: those who have seen ''Moose Murders,'' and those who have not. Those of us who have witnessed the play that opened at the Eugene O'Neill Theater last night will undoubtedly hold periodic reunions, in the noble tradition of survivors of the Titanic. Tears and booze will flow in equal measure, and there will be a prize awarded to the bearer of the most outstanding antlers. As for those theatergoers who miss ''Moose Murders'' - well, they just don't rate. A visit to ''Moose Murders'' is what will separate the connoisseurs of Broadway disaster from mere dilettantes for many moons to come.

The play begins in the exact manner of ''Whodunnit'' - itself one of the season's drearier offerings, though at the time of its opening we didn't realize how relatively civilized it was. There's a loud thunderclap, and the curtain rises to reveal an elaborate, twolevel, dark wood set. Amusingly designed by Marjorie Bradley Kellogg, the set represents a lodge in the Adirondacks and is profusely decorated with the requisite stuffed moose heads. Though the heads may be hunting trophies, one cannot rule out the possibility that these particular moose committed suicide shortly after being shown the script that trades on their good name.

The first human characters we meet - if ''human'' is the right word - are ''the singing Keenes.'' The scantily clad Snooks Keene bumps her backside in the audience's face and sings ''Jeepers Creepers'' in an aggresively off-key screech while her blind husband, Howie, pounds away on an electric hand organ. Howie's plug is soon mercifully pulled by the lodge's beefy middle-aged caretaker, Joe Buffalo Dance, who wears Indian war paint and braids but who speaks in an Irish brogue.

This loathsome trio is quickly joined by a whole crowd of unappetizing clowns. The wealthy Hedda Holloway, the lodge's new owner, arrives with her husband, Sidney, a heavily bandaged quadriplegic who is confined to a wheelchair and who is accurately described as ''that fetid roll of gauze.'' Sidney's attendant, Nurse Dagmar, wears revealing black satin, barks in Nazi-ese and likes to leave her patient out in the rain. The Holloway children include Stinky, a drug-crazed hippie who wants to sleep with his mother, and Gay, a little girl in a party dress. Told that her father will always be ''a vegetable,'' Gay turns up her nose and replies, ''Like a lima bean? Gross me out!'' She then breaks into a tap dance.

For much of Act I, this ensemble stumbles about mumbling dialogue that, as far as one can tell, is only improved by its inaudibility. Just before intermission, Stinky breaks out a deck of cards to give the actors, if not the audience, something to do. The lights go out in mid-game, and when they come up again, one of the characters has been murdered. Such is the comatose nature of the production that we're too busy trying to guess which stiff on stage is the victim to worry about guessing the culprit.

Even Act I of ''Moose Murders'' is inadequate preparation for the ludicrous depths of Act II. I won't soon forget the spectacle of watching the mummified Sidney rise from his wheelchair to kick an intruder, unaccountably dressed in a moose costume, in the groin. This peculiar fracas is topped by the play's final twist, in which Hedda serves her daughter Gay a poison-laced vodka martini. As the young girl collapses to the floor and dies in the midst of another Shirley Temple-esque buck and wing, her mother breaks into laughter and applause.

The 10 actors trapped in this enterprise, a minority of them of professional caliber, will not be singled out here. I'm tempted to upbraid the author, director and producers of ''Moose Murders,'' but surely the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will be after them soon enough.

Paging the A.S.P.C.A.

MOOSE MURDERS, by Arthur Bicknell; directed by John Roach; scenery by Marjorie Bradley Kellogg; lighting by Pat Collins; costumes by John Carver Sullivan; sound design by Chuck London Media/Stewart Werner; dance coordinator, Mary Jane Houdina; stage violence by Kent Shelton; associate producer, Ricka Kanter Fisher; production stage manager, Jerry Bihm. Presented by Force Ten Productions Inc. At the Eugene O'Neill, 230 West 49th Street.

Snooks Keene ...............................June Gable
Howie Keene ................................Don Potter
Joe Buffalo Dance ........................Jack Dabdoub
Nurse Dagmar ............................Lisa McMillan
Hedda Holloway .........................Holland Taylor
Stinky Holloway ...........................Scott Evans
Gay Holloway ...............................Mara Hobel
Lauraine Holloway Fay ................Lillie Robertson
Nelson Fay ...........................Nicholas Hormann
Sidney Holloway ........................Dennis Florzak

By Frank Rich
New York Times
March 20, 1983

Like everyone who caught the theater bug at an early age, I always made a point of saving Playbills. Not just my Playbills, mind you, but the entire world's: between a matinee and evening performance during adolescence, I would skip dinner in order to tour Times Square garbage cans and scoop up the programs of all the plays I had not seen. People who share this affliction surely know how near and dear those Playbills become as the years pass by. That's why we weep unabashedly over the scene in Moss Hart's memoir ''Act One'' in which the author's angry father torments his elderly, theater-loving aunt into ''dropping her beloved programs from trembling hands all over the floor.'' It's as if Hart's father had sacked a holy shrine.

But there comes a time in adulthood when one must either break this acquisitive habit entirely or rent a warehouse. I quit cold turkey, not to be overly exact about it, on Sept. 14, 1967. Or almost. There are still rare occasions when the old urge takes over and a Playbill simply must be tucked away for posterity. These exceptions are not the ones you might expect. I now realize that there's no point in saving programs from great nights in the theater. Those nights become part of history and will be profusely documented forever; it's always possible to dig up a Playbill from ''Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,'' after all, if really necessary. The Playbills that are truly worth saving are the rarest: those from the worst nights in the theater. And not just any worst night, either, but the very worst - those of the legendary bombs.

What makes certain bombs into legends? It's hard to say, precisely - they don't wear fur coats. Once it was a mark of distinction for a play to close in one night, but in these troubled times even that phenomenon is a sad commonplace. Some theater people define legendary bombs by the amount of money that went down the drain, or the high caliber of talent expended, or the extravagant foolhardiness of the esthetic mission. Others let Joe Allen, the theater district bistro, be the final arbiter: that restaurant has a whole wall bedecked with posters from a select group of famous turkeys. Whatever the definition, it can't be quantified - a flop just must have a certain je ne sais quoi to rise to legendary status. But what I do know is this: the only Playbill I've saved thus far in this decade is the one from ''Moose Murders.''

''Moose Murders,'' for those with short memories, was a catastrophe that reared its ugly stuffed head, complete with antlers, last month. Let's not review its contents here except to say that it was a comedy whose climax consisted of a gauze-wrapped quadriplegic rising from his wheelchair to kick a man wearing a moose costume in the groin.

In any case, I come not to bury ''Moose Murders'' again, but, in a fashion, to praise it. A legend it most certainly is. Those few of us who saw ''Moose Murders'' will always look back at it less with anger than with guilty pleasure. Indeed, since reviewing this show, I have received a near-flood of mail from ''Moose Murders'' audience members who, while detesting the play, were glad to have seen it, for reasons I'll explain. (You can bet that these correspondents are saving their Playbills, too.) Other letters have arrived from jealous folk who sorely resent not having made it to ''Moose Murders'' just to experience for themselves how atrocious it was. (These correspondents, no doubt, were frantically searching through Broadway trashcans for the Playbill the morning after the openingclosing night.)

Why the regret about having missed a dreadful play? Why the guilty pleasure in having seen it? The crazy thing about a ''Moose Murders'' is that it does remind one, however backhandedly, of the particular excitement of witnessing live theater.

If a great play unites audience and actors alike into a transcendent emotional or intellectual journey, so a truly wretched one can band audience and actors together into a shared nightmare. As passengers will always remember an ecstatic trans-Atlantic journey on the France, so will survivors always remember the camaraderie of their ill-starred crossing on the Titanic. A communal, we're-all-inthis-together feeling takes over, sink or swim.

It's not an experience available at run-of-the-mill flops, which are just boring and conventionally wasteful, or at the movies: while the audience at ''Heaven's Gate'' may draw tightly together, the actors making fools of themselves on the screen are not there to share in the collective embarrassment - they're already back sipping white wine and getting tan in Malibu. In my theatergoing years, the Broadway show that best illustrates the special allure of seeing a legendary flop - and diehard theatergoers' ravenous hunger for that adventure - is a musical called ''Rachael Lily Rosenbloom and Don't You Ever Forget It!'' Does anybody remember it? It never exactly opened. After a few preview performances at the Broadhurst in December 1973, a discreet announcement appeared in the Saturday papers that the show would close, prior to its premiere, that night. Happening to be in the vicinity of the Times Square half-price ticket booth that day, I bought a pair in the mezzanine for the musical's farewell performance. Arriving at the Broadhurst just before 8 P.M., I was startled to discover that the sold-out sign was up and that strangers were waving $50 bills in the air for any available ticket. Not for a second was I tempted to clear an $80 profit on my pair and miss out on this spectacle. Inside the theater, the atmosphere was so heady you'd think you were at a Tony Awards gala. There were celebrities from all the arts, ranks of standees in the back of the orchestra, paparazzi and autograph hounds pushing and shoving. When the lights dimmed, a voice came over the loud-speaker to announce that ''Tonight 'Rachael Lily Rosenbloom' will be played without an intermission.'' These words alone were enough to prompt the audience to break into a prolonged, punchdrunk ovation.

What followed was a musical fantasy of surpassing lavishness that made no sense, at any level, from beginning to end. The majority of the crowd fell into a sullen, open-mouthed stupor like that with which the audience greets the opening scenes of ''Springtime for Hitler,'' the fictitious Broadway flop within Mel Brooks's film ''The Producers.'' But no one walked out: ''Rachael Lily Rosenbloom'' became an existential test which everyone was determined to pass. The cast, many of whom were dressed in silver lame g-strings, attacked their tasks as if they were performing ''Guys and Dolls.''

After the show, I ran into an acquaintance and asked him why the house was packed for the closing night of such a fiasco. He surveyed the lobby and said, ''These are all the people who didn't see 'Breakfast at Tiffany's.' '' He was right. To this day, there are thousands of theatergoers, me included, who regret having missed that legendary, 1960's bomb -a big-budget musical starring Richard Chamberlain and Mary Tyler Moore, adapted by Edward Albee from the Truman Capote story, that the producer David Merrick folded in previews at the Majestic. We weren't going to make the same mistake twice.

It was also at ''Rachael Lily Rosenbloom'' that I learned the answer to the eternal question that always follows in the wake of such theatrical disasters. That question, of course, is, ''Why didn't anyone realize how hopeless this show was before risking all the trouble and expense and public ridicule of putting it on?'' Some people speculate that the creators of a ''Rachael Lily Rosenbloom'' or ''Breakfast at Tiffany's'' or ''Moose Murders'' are suffering from temporary insanity. Others postulate that such shows are tax gimmicks or maybe clandestine pranks hatched by foreign agents out to undermine the American way of life. But the real answer is more benign and simple than that. Theater people, like all people, would always rather believe good news than bad news, especially about their own work - and someone is always willing to give them encouragement, no matter how ridiculous the project at hand may be.

If a musical on its way to Broadway gets terrible reviews and audience catcalls in Boston, it's often said, that musical's creators will ignore those omens entirely and instead choose to believe the opinion of the Ritz-Carlton waiter who confides, while waiting for a tip, that he found the show superior to ''My Fair Lady.'' At ''Rachael Lily Rosenbloom,'' one could see this process in action: in scattered pockets throughout the otherwise shell-shocked house were claques of theatergoers who sang along with the musical numbers and gave mini-standing ovations at the end of most of them.

These partisans had clearly seen earlier previews of the show and adored it; they were in tears when the final curtain rang down. No doubt there were other such ''Rachael Lily Rosenbloom'' fans at every stage of the show's development. There will always be somebody who loves a bomb, no matter how deadly, and there will always be at least one person connected with the production who will grab on to the straws of hope that these cheerleaders provide.

This myopia can afflict all theater artists, however mighty. It has happened to nearly everyone. But when the turkey finally rests in its grave, its perpetrators often bounce back. Pulling out my cherished Playbill for ''Rachael Lily Rosenbloom,'' I find that its co-producer went on to produce ''Evita''; that its co-librettist went on to write ''Dreamgirls''; that its female leads have recently found acclaim and stardom in ''Nine'' and ''Little Shop of Horrors''; that three of its chorus people were later leads in ''A Chorus Line'' (one winning a Tony Award) and another was a star of ''Ain't Misbehavin'.'' They probably look back and laugh, too, by now.

I can't promise that all will end so happily for the cast and crew of ''Moose Murders.'' We'll wait 10 years and see. In the meantime, I'm holding on tightly to my rare Playbill. It's a remembrance of a genuine theatrical occasion, and just possibly, given my correspondents who would kill for it, an annuity for my old age.

Posted by Merkookio at 01:31 PM | TrackBack

July 16, 2005

Hoarding Time

Those of us old enough know how to wear it on our sleeve - somehow every four years -- announcing to whoever is stupid enough to listen (and to the dwindling few who remember) the hoarding of that McGovern-Eagleton button (McGovern-Shriver doesn't cut it) from 1972.

Or how about that Harold Stassen button (only if you remember Anita Bryant before she was a poster child for Stonewall anger).

Or if you're really lucky, and if you're now part of the Giff Miller's Generation G (usually those that were Howard Dean meet-up kiddies), you might have an Abe Hirschfeld for Senate button.

So if you act quickly, you can find Virginia Fields buttons at rock-bottom prices before they appreciate in value much more than the candidate's platform or her fleeting troops. You can get the button here. Try the refrigerator magnet or the ten-pack.

And got that old Volkswagon beetle that's just itching for something to replace that 1964 Goldwater sticker. That's right, you can be the hit of the Westport cotillion with your own Virginia Fields bumper sticker at only $3.95 by clicking here. But do so only if you remember Chad & Jeremy.

So act today and you can help Virginia Fields raise the $3 million she'll need to beat Anthony Weiner from the embarrassment of fourth place.

Posted by Merkookio at 11:10 AM | TrackBack

July 14, 2005

Scapegoat still owns Fields' Web Domain

It's one thing to can your direct mail outfit for incompetence (or use them as a scapegoat as some have suggested), but before you do, it might be wise to take care of some necessary business.

According to Network Solutions, the domain name www.newyorkersforfields.com, the official Fields web site, is owned by her former direct mail firm Winning Directions.


Registrant: Winning Directions
1366 San Mateo Ave
South San Francisco, CA 94080 US
Phone: 6508754000

Last week Winning Directions was fired, along with consultant Joe Mercurio, for their alleged involvement in doctoring the infamous Photogate flier. No matter who has control of the Fields web site, it might be eligible for a mediocrity and blather award.

Posted by Merkookio at 12:47 PM | TrackBack

Good Morning, Mr. Mayor

Ever since www.virginiafields.com opened its doors, our traffic has steadily increased. In the last week, with Photogate, traffic has doubled.

Our most predictable site visitor has been the Mayor's office and the Bloomberg campaign. While the logs do not indicate exactly who has logged on (in many organizations, several individuals can be using the same IP number), almost every day we see site visitors with "mayorpxy" and "bloomberg2005.com" churning through our pages.

And we didn't even call the Mayor at home!

And the runner-up goes to ... www.nycvisit.com, home of the Atlanta Center for Lategano Disease Control, whose sole mission is to replace all eight million New Yorkers with tourists by 2012.

Posted by Merkookio at 11:49 AM | TrackBack

To the Barricades! Rangel knows no facts!

We knew that after his waffling performance on the West Side Stadium, but in a New York Times story, Representative Charles Rangel, often seen as Virginia Fields' political rabbi, called the Times to say, "I have no idea of the facts..."

The Times points out that Joseph Mercurio's emails to the campaign do not establish an explicit directive from Fields or campaign staffers to doctor the photos, but do not exclude that as a possibility either. However, if the emails are authentic, they would establish that Fields and her senior campaign advisors either knew about the doctored photos, or should have known about them. This would contradict recent statements from Fields and her campaign that they did not know about the doctored photos until last week.

For the Times article, click below.

Update: Articles from the News and Post also available, click the link below.

Fired Aide Releases E-Mail Notes He Sent to Fields
NY Times
by Randal C. Archibold
July 14, 2005

Just as C. Virginia Fields was trying to move past questions about a doctored campaign photo, her former chief political consultant released a string of e-mail correspondence yesterday that he said buttressed his claim that she should have known about the altered photo.

Joseph C. Mercurio, the fired consultant, released five e-mail messages that he said were sent directly to Ms. Fields and several of her lieutenants. They were dated from March to June and included the doctored photo, which was used in a campaign flier.

He said the messages would counter Ms. Fields's contention that she became aware only last week that the photo included stock images. She fired him and dismissed the company that produced the photos, Winning Directions, after news organizations brought the doctoring to light.

The photo was edited to include images of Asian-Americans in a group of diverse supporters to further her campaign theme of having broad ethnic and racial support.

"She obviously forgot now that there had been versions distributed back then," Mr. Mercurio said in an interview, and he went on to suggest that her campaign advisers were mishandling the situation. "So much for her internal audit of the process."

He added: "The accusation is I did this on my own and did not tell anybody and she just found out about it Wednesday morning. They had to prove their hands were clean and got rid of offending people. I don't know if they forgot what happened back in March or just are not experienced with dealing with crisis management."

Questions about what Ms. Fields knew of the photo, and when, have dogged her mayoral campaign for a week, and have led to further questions about her credibility, her management style in handling the situation, and her oversight of campaign details.

In response to Mr. Mercurio's statements, Ms. Fields's campaign officials said that she did not see the doctored photo because she did not make a practice of reviewing campaign material by e-mail, and that Mr. Mercurio surely would have known that. The campaign officials said that aides in her borough presidency office served as informal campaign advisers but that they did not scrutinize campaign photos; a spokesman for the aides said they were not aware the photos had been doctored.

"Virginia Fields does not review drafts of campaign literature in e-mail," said a statement from her press secretary, Kirsten Powers. "As is true with many candidates, she reviews all drafts of campaign literature in hard copy. She was paying Joe Mercurio $15,000 a month for his political services, and this included overseeing the campaign literature process, and the use of the photo in question was his decision.

"She was outraged to learn last week that the photo was doctored with stock images," the statement continued, "and she made a decision about who was responsible and took action. She never saw the photo before it was doctored. At no point did Mercurio disclose that the photo in the literature had been doctored. His attempts to blame this on other people are shameful and must stop."

Representative Charles B. Rangel, one of Ms. Fields's most important and influential supporters, rose to her defense, attacking Mr. Mercurio's motives in an unsolicited telephone call to a reporter.

"I have no idea of the facts, but I have never heard in all my years of a consultant who would breach a relationship with a client and attack them politically," Mr. Rangel said.

He suggested that Mr. Mercurio was bitter about Ms. Fields's refusal to keep him on. "He is going to hurt himself more than anybody else, and I encourage Virginia not to get involved in a debate," he said.

Ms. Fields has declined to give a detailed account of her review of the flier, saying she did not wish to debate with Mr. Mercurio.

Though they do not concretely show that Ms. Fields or her aides ordered the photo manipulation or even were aware of it, the e-mail messages keep alive a story the campaign has hoped would go away.

The March 15 e-mail message includes a draft of a flier with a photo of Ms. Fields at a news conference amid a diverse tableau of supporters. The message was sent to the personal e-mail accounts of Ms. Fields, who is the Manhattan borough president; Barbara Baer, the deputy borough president; and Luther Smith, the chief of staff of the borough president's office; and to the campaign account of Kimberly Peeler-Allen, Ms. Fields's campaign finance director.

Four days later, Mr. Mercurio sent the flier to that group again, but in the photo two white supporters had been deleted and two Asians put in.

Mr. Mercurio has argued that the change was made at the insistence of Ms. Fields and her deputies, but he declined to release any messages that included those instructions.

He insisted that he had no ax to grind and noted that he has continued to speak highly of Ms. Fields and her campaign.

"I have been correcting the record," he said, "while in fact saying nice things about her."

NY Post
by Frankie Edozien and Carl Campanile

July 14, 2005 -- C. Virginia Fields received before and after versions of a doctored campaign photograph in which two white supporters were replaced with Asians, according to bombshell e-mails made public yesterday by her fired top consultant.

Fields' ex-adviser Joseph Mercurio released the documents to back up his contention that the Democratic mayoral hopeful was aware that the photo had been changed to make her appear more "inclusive" before it was distributed to voters.

In a March 15 e-mail to Fields' AOL address, Mercurio sent a draft version of the campaign flier for her review. It showed a picture - taken at a press conference last year - of Fields surrounded by supporters. A white man and woman are standing to her right.

But in another e-mail four days later, on March 19, Mercurio sent Fields a new version of the handout - showing an Asian man and woman superimposed in place of the white couple.

"Virginia saw the before and after photos," said Mercurio, who was blamed last week for the photo flap and fired by Fields. "I'm showing you an e-mail that says she did."

The veteran consultant said he had no proof that Fields, the Manhattan borough president, read his e-mails - which he had copied to several of her top aides - but insisted she reviewed "hard copies" of all campaign materials in all their draft forms.

The handout, which was pulled after the scam-photo firestorm erupted last week, was Fields' key piece of campaign literature.

Fields flap? Picture this
NY Daily News
by Maggie Haberman
July 14, 2005

Here's the undoctored photo in the Virginia Fields' flyer flap, showing the people at the far left whose heads were later replaced with those of an Asian couple.

The original picture was part of the E-mails made public yesterday by Fields' embattled former strategist in the latest installment of finger-pointing over the fudged photo.

Both of the people erased from the original picture in an apparent effort to show diversity were identified yesterday as Fields backers. One, Trudy Mason, said she's known Fields for 20 years, and that the Manhattan borough president would never have knowingly erased her from the picture.

"I very much doubt that she'd remove me," Mason said.

Fired strategist Joe Mercurio says the original photo and an E-mail trail he released yesterday show he's been scapegoated by Fields, who denies knowing about the image swapping.

Mercurio said his E-mails to Fields and other staffers show he kept the campaign posted - sending them the original picture in a draft of a campaign mailing, then sending them the altered version for approval.

But sources close to Fields say she often does not read her E-mail and never knew the photo was doctored in an apparent effort to show diversity.

"She never saw the photo before it was doctored," the campaign said in a statement. "At no point did Mercurio disclose that the photo in the literature had been doctored."

Sources close to Fields noted that Mercurio, who initially defended the flyer, said after he was canned that it was done in June against his wishes - never saying that the doctored photo was also used in a March flyer.

Mercurio insisted he showed Fields copies of the pieces.

"I'm objecting to the fact that they're saying they didn't know anything about it ... that I dreamt it on my own, did it on my own and made them use it without noticing it," he said.

Posted by Merkookio at 12:08 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 13, 2005

Fields flier stand-in identified

Sources tell VirginiaFields.com that the white lady appearing on the 'before' version of the Photogate flier (see below), and subsquently replaced with the head of an unidentified asian woman, is Fields supporter and Democratic activist Trudy Mason. Among other things, she has been described as a Fields supporter, a Democratic State Committeewoman, and associated with the East Side Lexington Club.

One Politicker comment from "East Side Dem" said, "No wonder the Fields campaign wanted to change the flyer."

Another comment from Fields critic "Lead Dog" said, "Editing out Trudy Mason is the only smart thing the Fields campaign ever did. It is almost reason to forgive the folderol, and to support Fields."

The white male, whose head was replaced by that of an asian male, looks awfully familiar. Looking closely, in both cases the heads were replaced but not the bodies or clothing. Sort of like Pierce Brosnan and Sarah Jessica Parker in Mars Attacks.

Posted by Merkookio at 11:35 PM | TrackBack

Two Honkies get Axed

Former Fields' consultant Joe Mercurio has released the before and after versions of the infamous Photogate fliers. The first version shows two white individuals appearing to stare off into space. The second version (subject of Photogate), shows two Asians also appearing to stare off into space. Question is, who are those two whites, and did they also not endorse Fields?

For the complete fliers in PDF, see before and after. See page 2 of each PDF file.

Update #1:

The Politicker is reporting the Fields' campaign response to the release of the two versions of the Photogate flier:

"Virginia Fields does not review drafts of campaign literature in email. As is true with many candidates, she reviews all drafts of campaign literature in hard copy. She was paying Joe Mercurio $15K a month for his political services and this included overseeing the campaign literature process and the use of the photo in question was his decision. She was outraged to learn last week that the photo was doctored with stock images and she made a decision about who was responsible and took action. She never saw the photo before it was doctored. At no point did Mercurio disclose that the photo in the literature had been doctored. His attempts to blame this on other people are shameful and must stop." -- Kirsten Powers, Fields spokesperson.

Update #2:

Newsday (Dan Janison and Glenn Thrush) are reporting:

Valachi had his papers, Monica had her dress and Captain Queeg had his strawberries. Now Joe Mercurio has his e-mails.

Mercurio was dismissed as C. Virginia Fields' campaign consultant after it was discovered two Asian-Americans had been digitally inserted into campaign literature. Now he's waging his own e-mail campaign defending his reputation.
Fields said she didn't know the faces were added. Mercurio has insisted otherwise since his firing was announced Friday.
On Wednesday, Mercurio sent reporters copies of four of his e-mails to Fields and senior staffers, dated between March 19 and June 20, that included attachments of the Asian Americans-included flier.
They seem to contradict the borough president's claims. Calls to a Fields spokeswoman weren't returned.

Posted by Merkookio at 04:48 PM | TrackBack

Of Course her campaign is in turmoil!

So why is she talking about it? Click for the New York Times article below.

Fields Plays Down Concerns That Campaign Is in Turmoil
by Randal C. Archibold
New York Times
July 13, 2005

With questions still swirling about a doctored photograph in a mayoral campaign flier, C. Virginia Fields sought to move past the problem yesterday by proposing ways to improve subway safety.

Ms. Fields, at her first formal news conference since the problem arose last week, repeated a statement that her campaign manager put out about subway safety after the London subway and bus bombings last Thursday. But she still found herself addressing the fliers, if only to play down suggestions that the fuss has damaged her campaign.

"I don't have that same concern and neither does my campaign have that same concern," said Ms. Fields, the Manhattan borough president and a Democrat, when asked if her campaign was adrift. "We are continuing to do what we have been doing, outreach to voters, talking to voters, continuing to raise money, continuing to implement plans that we have to implement. So that is not my view or the view of my campaign."

She declined to provide details on the flier, which included a picture edited to include a more diverse backdrop of supporters than had appeared in the original. Since then, Ms. Fields, who has based her campaign largely on her appeal to ethnic and racial groups, and the campaign consultant she dismissed on Friday over the matter, Joseph C. Mercurio, have sparred through the news media over the candidate's role and knowledge of the photo manipulation.

"My credibility is not under question," Ms. Fields said, declining to release any information supporting her version, adding that Mr. Mercurio's dismissal ended the matter.

Yesterday's event, at the entrance to the subway station at 169th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue in Harlem, followed the postponement of a news conference Sunday on the same topic, when the problem over the fliers was at a fever pitch.

Ms. Fields, running second in polls among the four major candidates seeking the Democratic nomination, appeared before the cameras yesterday for more than nine minutes, with an assistant cutting off questioning when it focused on the fliers.

She suggested that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg press the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for a range of steps to improve safety and security, including increasing the number of workers at stations, equipping tunnels and stations with cellphone service and expanding the use of security cameras. Ms. Fields did not release an estimate of the cost of the additional measures.

She criticized Mr. Bloomberg for what she said was inattention to subway safety. The governor appoints the majority of the transportation authority's 17-member board, and the mayor can recommend four appointees.

"I for one was very astonished to hear Mayor Bloomberg calling the London attacks a wake-up call, because our wake-up call was 9/11," Ms. Fields told reporters, referring to a statement that Mr. Bloomberg made on Sunday.

A transcript of his remarks to reporters on Sunday suggested that the mayor meant the transportation authority had received a wake-up call, though he literally got one when an aide woke him up to tell him about the London bombings as he returned to New York from his Olympics-hunting trip to Singapore.

"I'm sure that they got a wake-up call the other day, just as I did," Mr. Bloomberg said. "When mine was a physical one, theirs should have been a mental one."

Spokesmen for Mr. Bloomberg pointed out that the Police Department had intensified patrols and taken other steps to improve security.

Ms. Fields also found herself issuing an apology on Monday after she used the words "paddy wagon" in a television interview on NY1 over the weekend to describe vans used by the police in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963, when she and others participated in civil rights demonstrations. The term is offensive to some people of Irish descent.

Posted by Merkookio at 02:32 PM | TrackBack

Of course she has no credibility!

Flap's photo finish; Boro prez wants to move on
by Celeste Katz
New York Daily News
July 13, 2005

Manhattan Borough President and Democratic mayoral hopeful Virginia Fields said yesterday she wants to put the flap about doctored campaign pictures behind her. Despite accusations to the contrary, she said, "My credibility is not under question."

Even before Photogate, most of those aware of Fields' record knew she couldn't be trusted.

For the Daily News article, click below:

Flap's photo finish; Boro prez wants to move on
by Celeste Katz
New York Daily News
July 13, 2005

Manhattan Borough President and Democratic mayoral hopeful Virginia Fields said yesterday she wants to put the flap about doctored campaign pictures behind her. Despite accusations to the contrary, she said, "My credibility is not under question."

Fields' problems began when a direct-mail firm retouched a photo of her at a news conference to give the impression of a multicultural rainbow of supporters backing her.

It wasn't the case, the campaign had to admit. The photo was a composite, or collage, that was meant to represent the kind of multiethnic support Fields has culled.

Fields ended up firing the mailing firm, Winning Directions, as well as campaign consultant Joseph Mercurio - who firmly shot back that Fields and other staff members knew precisely what was going on with the images.

Asked yesterday at an uptown news conference whether she believes fellow Democrats should be worried that her campaign has lost focus because of the issue, Fields said no.

"We're continuing to do what we have been doing - outreach to voters, talking to voters, continuing to raise money, continuing to implement plans that we have to implement," she said.

Speaking under a broiling afternoon sun at the 169th St. and St. Nicholas Ave. subway stop, Fields accused Mayor Bloomberg of revving up his security rhetoric only after the London bombings, not 9/11.

Fields said New Yorkers simply "have no idea" what they're supposed to do in the event of a subway attack - and those with no command of English are in particular peril.

She suggested a multipronged plan, including providing emergency instructions in Spanish, Chinese and Korean in addition to English and translating announcements into those languages.

Fields said she also backs staffing station booths, making sure cell phones and pay phones work in the stations and expanding the use of security cameras.

Bloomberg's campaign responded icily to Fields' London critique.

"Although we usually correct the record when politicians distort the mayor's remarks, we aren't going to respond to someone playing politics with terrorism," said Bloomberg campaign spokesman Stu Loeser.

Originally published on July 13, 2005

Posted by Merkookio at 11:02 AM | TrackBack

"Quite frankly, my schedule is full"

So says Donna Brazile, former campaign manager for Al Gore and advertised headliner for tonight's fundraiser for Virginia Fields in Washington D.C.

Newsday reports that Ms. Brazile is backing out of the Fields fundraiser citing previous engagements.

Could it be that the Fields campaign never confirmed Ms. Brazile's attendance, or is she backing out at the last minute given the utter turmoil of the Fields campaign?

Charles I'm-for-the-stadium-except-when-I'm-against-it Rangel is expected to show. Imagine the strain on his face.

For the Newsday piece, click below.

Brazile's no-show in D.C. takes Fields by surprise
by Glenn Thrush
July 13, 2005

Former U.S. Labor Secretary Alexis Herman and Al Gore's 2000 campaign manager Donna Brazile are at the top of an invite to Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields' big-money Washington, D.C. fund-raiser tonight.

Brazile and five other women power brokers, the event's flier proclaims, "cordially invite you to join them."

But Brazile, a CNN analyst and political consultant, won't be joining Democratic mayoral candidate Fields, who was already reeling from a series of embarrassing setbacks and gaffes. Brazile cited a previous engagement and a desire to avoid a time-consuming local race.

"My name is listed, but I am not planning on attending. I have a conflict tomorrow night," she wrote in an e-mail to Newsday yesterday.

"I agreed last month to help out," she added. "This week, I received an e-mail and, quite frankly, my schedule is full. I just returned from the NAACP [convention in Milwaukee] and must get back to my work." Brazile will make a donation to Fields' campaign.

Word of Brazile's decision took Fields' staff by surprise. "We were under the impression she was coming," said campaign aide Kirsten Powers.

On Friday, Fields fired consultant Joe Mercurio in a nasty flap over the digital insertion of two Asian-Americans in a campaign flier.

That same day, Fields travelled to her native Birmingham, Ala., where she collected at least $25,000 in contributions and recalled how Birmingham police packed her and other protesters in "paddy wagons," during 1963 civil rights marches.

The snakebitten campaign issued an immediate apology for the phrase, which includes a 19th century slur against the Irish.

Tonight's $250- to $1,000-a-head fete, held at B.Smith's in Union Station, is sponsored by Fields' ally Rep. Charlie Rangel. The Harlem Democrat is expected to attend.

Posted by Merkookio at 11:01 AM | TrackBack

July 12, 2005

The Ginerator, Making Copies

One would think with all the minions taking up space on the 19th floor of the Municipal Building (even if they were to do it on their own time), you could find someone who could publish and print something that puts your candidate in a good light. But no, with Photogate still hounding the Virginia Fields' campaign, they rushed out xerox copies of new campaign literature for a campaign stop Monday, according to a report in the New York Post.

Now with Joe Mercurio gone, was Virginia Fields left to do her own paste-ups? How much cash is left? Are donors fleeing from what some reporters are calling a 'hapless' candidate?

Click below for the NY Post report.

Reeling Fields' Latest Fliers Real Cheapies
NY Post
by Stephanie Gaskell and Frankie Edozien

July 12, 2005 -- Trying to bounce back from her campaign flier debacle last week, Virginia Fields campaigned at the Utica Avenue subway stop in Crown Heights yesterday - where she passed out new materials to voters that appeared to have been shoddily made.

Just days after firing her campaign manager Joe Mercurio for authorizing a campaign leaflet that superimposed two Asian-Americans over two whites, Fields presented handouts that were Xeroxed, not slickly produced like most campaign literature.

The Xeroxed handouts are a possible sign that the Fields campaign is running short on cash or scrambled to give something out since it can no longer use the doctored photo.

When asked if she thought the flier flap would hurt her campaign, Fields said voters would judge her on her record.

"Voters are smart, voters look at everything," she said.

The Fields campaign also apologized yesterday for comments she made in her hometown of Birmingham, Ala.

While remembering her experiences as a 17-year-old taking part in the civil-rights protests led by Martin Luther King Jr., she recalled being "put into a paddy wagon."

The term "paddy wagon" is considered by some to be offensive to the Irish.

"She did not mean to offend anyone. If she did, she is very sorry," campaign spokeswoman Kristen Powers said.

Also yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg was endorsed in five different languages by members of a union representing 3,000 doctors from city hospitals.

Posted by Merkookio at 06:38 PM | TrackBack

Paddy Wagon - what's the fuss

You have to hand it to NY1 News. While on a visit to her hometown, Birmingham, Alabama, Virginia Fields recounted the march in 1963 when she was arrested with Dr. Martin Luther King.

She remarked how she and others were put into the "paddywagon," a term that while may have had its roots in the insensitive treatement of the Irish, but for all intents and purposes is solidly ensconced in mainstream American discourse.

While there's a lot to question of Ms. Fields' character and readiness to be Mayor, this is not one of those issues, especially as neither NY1 reporter Frick or Frack (Dominic Carter and Davidson Goldin)--who are fanning these flames--are Irish.

Probably what does further damage to the Fields' candidacy, is that she's apologizing for it!

In his famous "I've been to the Mountaintop" speech of April 3, 1968, the night before he was slain in Memphis, Tennessee, Dr. Martin Luther King himself twice referred to "paddy wagons" in Birmingham.

See his speech here (pdf file, page 3).

See NY1's report, click below:

Fields' Campaign Under Fire Again, This Time For Insensitive Remark
NY1 News
July 12, 2005

Democratic candidate for mayor C. Virginia Fields' campaign is apologizing for using the term "paddy wagon" in an interview with NY1.

In Alabama on Friday, the Manhattan borough president talked about being arrested during a civil rights protest in 1963. In her comments, she described police vans as "paddy wagons" - a term that's considered offensive by some Irish-Americans.

"We marched to mid-block at best and the paddy wagon was there and we were told we were marching without a permit and we could either turn around or we would be arrested," said Fields in the interview last Friday. "We fell on our knees and we were put into the paddy wagon."

Fields' campaign spokeswoman released a statement saying, "Obviously she did not mean to offend anyone. If she did, she is very sorry."

Fields' campaign had already been facing controversy over a campaign flier that used a doctored photo. In the wake of that incident, Fields fired her top campaign consultant, Joe Mercurio, on Friday.

Polls show her running second in the four-way Democratic primary race.

Posted by Merkookio at 10:59 AM | TrackBack

July 11, 2005

BEEP won't replace canned consultant

BEEP won't replace canned consultant
New York Post
by Stefan C. Friedman

July 11, 2005 -- Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields has "no plans" to fill the position left open by political consultant Joseph Mercurio's ousting, sources say.

In the wake of revelations that a campaign flier was doctored by Photoshopping an Asian couple into a photograph, sources in Fields' camp say they can steer the ship out of trouble with their current staff.

"There are no plans to replace him," said one source. "We have a great team in place--a great media person, pollster, campaign manager and field person."

One place his departure can't hurt is the wallet--the cash-poor campaign was paying Mercurio $15,000 a month.

Posted by Merkookio at 10:51 AM | TrackBack

Sharpton attacks ex-Fields aide

Would anyone expect anything less from the Rev.? Mercurio to go sailing.

Click below for articles from Newsday and the Sun.

Sharpton attacks ex-Fields aide
by Bryan Virasami
July 11, 2005

The Rev. Al Sharpton took jabs at a political consultant Sunday who was fired by mayoral candidate C. Virginia Fields over a doctored campaign photo.

During Sharpton's Sunday program on WLIB/1190 radio, he said it was unprofessional for Joseph Mercurio to criticize his former boss, the Manhattan borough president who is seeking the Democratic mayoral nomination.

"For someone to leave a campaign and then turn around and try to make all kinds of allegations and bordering on some very, very ugly language, I think a professional ought to be a professional," Sharpton said.

Fields fired Mercurio after admitting a photo in a flier was doctored to include two Asian-Americans who weren't supporters.

Mercurio told reporters Fields had seen the photo before it was released. Fields said Mercurio's version was wrong.

In response to Sharpton's comments, Mercurio called on Sharpton -- who has so far declined to pick a primary candidate -- to throw his support behind Fields. "I challenge him to endorse her," Mercurio said. "He knows she's the better candidate and he shouldn't put her through a lengthy checkout. He knows now she's the better candidate."

Sharpton's comments were made minutes before Fields went on the program but she didn't comment on the issue.

Endorse Fields, Fired Consultant Advises Sharpton
The New York Sun
July 11, 2005
by Jull Gardiner

A former top political consultant to one of the Democratic mayoral candidates, C.Virginia Fields, said yesterday that a prominent African-American activist, the Reverend Alford Sharpton, should step up and endorse Ms. Fields as she tries to bounce back from a recent flap over a doctored photo.

The consultant, Joseph Mercurio, who was fired Friday by Ms. Fields and then rebutted the campaign's assertion that he was ultimately responsible for the use of the photo, commented after Rev. Sharpton attacked him yesterday on his weekly radio show, which airs on WLIB-AM.

"If he thinks Virginia Fields is a good candidate, like I think Virginia Fields is a good candidate, he should get off it and finally endorse her," Mr. Mercurio told The New York Sun during a phone interview. "He's been talking about it for weeks. He should do it and help the borough president out when she needs it."

Rev. Sharpton's possible endorsement has been the object of speculation for months, but he has hedged so far and said he may not endorse a candidate in the Democratic primary at all. In the 2001 primary, Rev. Sharpton endorsed one of the Democratic candidates, Fernando Ferrer, who is the front-runner in the field of four contenders for the party's nomination to challenge Mayor Bloomberg this fall. Mr. Ferrer, who is Hispanic, hurt his chances of winning black votes, and Rev. Sharpton's backing, this year when he said in March that the fatal shooting by police of an unarmed African immigrant, Amadou Diallo, was not a crime.

In his comments about the Fields flap yesterday, Rev. Sharpton said it was "unethical" and "outright questionable" for a consultant to break confidence and attack a candidate after making money off the campaign.A candidate, he said, has the right to take action when something isn't handled properly, but an adviser should not publicly gripe and damage the campaign.

"I ran for mayor--I mean, this is no joke," Rev. Sharpton said moments before Ms. Fields joined him on the air for an interview. He ran in the Democratic primary in 1997, when Ms. Fields's predecessor as borough president of Manhattan, Ruth Messinger, was the nominee.

"There are a million things that come across your desk a day," Rev. Sharpton continued. "That's why you hire people to handle it. And when it is not handled in the way you want, you have the right to take action.They don't have a right to come back and try to slam-dunk you after stuffing their pockets at your expense."

Mr. Mercurio, a longtime consultant whose company, National Political Services, was paid roughly $145,000 by the campaign through April, said he was the lone voice of opposition to printing the flier that included the doctored photo. Others in the campaign, including the manager, Chung Seto, pushed for it, and Ms. Fields had seen various iterations of the flier and did not object, he said.

"I simply corrected the record," Mr. Mercurio said. "The amount of money you are paid does not lessen your requirement to be honorable, maintain your integrity, and to tell the truth."

Rev. Sharpton, who did not mention Mr. Mercurio by name yesterday, took other digs at him, saying female candidates such as Ms. Fields, the only woman running, cannot be judged by a different standard. And he challenged the consultant, at least in jest, to a fight.

"If he likes to fight, he wants to fight, he can come fight me, 'cause I think that this is unethical," Rev. Sharpton said.

The photo that ignited the controversy featured Ms. Fields at a news conference in the center of an ethnically diverse group. It proved to be a composite of several different images, among them a stock image of two Asian-Americans, whom Ms. Fields did not know, and pictures of people who are not supporting her bid for mayor.

The Fields campaign held a news conference Wednesday in an attempt to control the damage and presumably to put the issue to rest, but that seemed only to fan the flames and raise more questions.

Forty-eight hours later an unexpected round of mudslinging, between the sides had started, with Mr. Mercurio and the Fields camp each blaming the other for not flagging the photo before it was printed and distributed as part of a flier.

Mr. Mercurio said that he spoke to Ms. Fields by phone Friday while she was in her hometown of Birmingham, Ala., for a fund-raising event and that she told him it was "appropriate" for him to correct the record publicly if he needed to. The way he tells it, he said he would speak well of her. Aside from the matter of the photo, he has done so.

The Fields campaign has stopped commenting on the matter and canceled a news conference yesterday. A spokeswoman for Ms. Fields, Kirsten Powers, would comment only on the possibility of a Sharpton endorsement.

"Al Sharpton will make his decision when he wants to make it," Ms. Powers said. "There was never any expectation that he was going to make an endorsement on the radio show this morning."

A spokeswoman for Rev. Sharpton did not return a call. The minister, who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination last year, said he had not talked to Ms. Fields about the incident and indicated he would have had the same reaction had it happened in another campaign.

Mr. Mercurio, now that he is not working on the mayoral campaign, said he plans to spend his summer sailing.

Posted by Merkookio at 10:49 AM | TrackBack

Laughing for, with, or at?

If anyone really cares, Virginia Fields will hold a fundraiser July 19th at the Laugh Factory on 42nd and 8th Avenue (where Show World formerly entertained the masses). Entertainment by Paul Mooney.

We thought about using this picture, but it was too white and we would be forced to add a few blacks and chinese.

This will not be the first time Virginia Fields has appeared at the Laugh Factory. A few weeks ago, she appeared and even sang this song (God's Honest Truth, she sang that -- if anyone has the actual tape, please contact us).

Posted by Merkookio at 10:42 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 10, 2005

Both Sides Cool the Rhetoric in Furor Over a Fields Flier

Both Sides Cool the Rhetoric in Furor Over a Fields Flier
by Nicholas Confessore and Patrick D. Healy
New York Times
July 10, 2005

An unusually public dispute between mayoral candidate C. Virginia Fields and Joseph C. Mercurio, the consultant she abruptly fired last week after revelations that her campaign had issued campaign fliers with doctored photos, receded from public view yesterday, even as New York's political classes debated how the turmoil would affect the Democratic primary.

Click to read the entire article:

Both Sides Cool the Rhetoric in Furor Over a Fields Flier
by Nicholas Confessore and Patrick D. Healy
New York Times
July 10, 2005

An unusually public dispute between mayoral candidate C. Virginia Fields and Joseph C. Mercurio, the consultant she abruptly fired last week after revelations that her campaign had issued campaign fliers with doctored photos, receded from public view yesterday, even as New York's political classes debated how the turmoil would affect the Democratic primary.

On Friday, Mr. Mercurio said that the fliers - which used a stock image of two Asian-Americans and other cut-and-paste images of supporters of various ethnicities to imply they had all been present at one campaign event--had been printed over his objections. Ms. Fields insisted that he was ultimately responsible for them.

But yesterday, citing a desire not to escalate the dispute, both Ms. Fields and Mr. Mercurio declined to provide e-mail messages, invoices, or other documentation to corroborate the accounts of how the fliers had been produced.

"If they're not saying anything, I'm not going to get into any correspondence," Mr. Mercurio said.

Ms. Fields, the Manhattan Borough President, appeared to be lying low, canceling a news conference on subway security scheduled for today. And Ms. Fields' rivals for the Democratic nomination have been careful not to criticize her for the fliers.

Fernando Ferrer, a mayoral candidate who has led the field in most polls, said he was sympathetic to her after his own troubles this spring, when he said a police shooting in 1999 of an unarmed black man, Amadou Diallo, was not a crime--a statement for which he was attacked by Ms. Fields, among others.

"I've known her for a long time, she's a woman of real integrity and honesty, and I trust her," Mr. Ferrer said in an interview Friday, though he had not been asked any questions about Ms. Fields. "We've got to move on from this, and move on to the real issues of the campaign."

Some observers said they did not expect the incident to affect her chances, emphasizing that voters tended to have little interest in internal campaign issues. Others said that the furor could actually solidify her support among black voters.

"Surprisingly, some people who had been supportive but lukewarm were offended by Mercurio's comments, and were very supportive of her," said the Rev. Al Sharpton, who said he would still consider endorsing Ms. Fields in the primary. "Sometimes when leaders are attacked, people close ranks behind them."

But other analysts, including some on good terms with Ms. Fields, said that the mud-slinging might hurt her efforts to raise money, a result she can ill afford. Despite consistently ranking second in the polls, she has raised the least money among the Democratic candidates.

Posted by Merkookio at 10:55 AM | TrackBack

July 09, 2005

Sam Roberts coddles Gin; gets Mush

There's one thing any New York City politician knows: when you can't answer the hard questions (or refuse to answer the soft questions), you change the interviewer. So too C. Virginia Fields; after striking-out in a WCBS Andrew Kitzman interview in April, she rushed down to Chelsea to be coddled by the New York Times' Sam Roberts. Hard questions are rarely heard in the NY Times-sponsored New York Close-up on NY1 News. Roberts just nods and soaks it in while allowing the candidate to blather on. Perhaps he's just being kind.

So Thursday she trekked to Chelsea again.

It wasn't me; it was them. Nod. I can be the inclusive Mayor. Nod. Not intended to mislead. Nod. I have deep support. Nod. And so on. You can listen to the audio here (.mp3 file, 9 minutes, about 4 megs).

It's all been addressed, etc.! Steps were taken, etc.! Action, etc! We're competitive, etc. We're focused, etc. It's all a distraction, etc. They believe in my vision, etc.

"I am still opposed to a stadium"

Since when?

Note: When the Fields' MBP website goes down around January 1, 2006, click below for her press release on the stadium.

Note: photo stolen, photoshopped, and is not intended to mislead, trick or confuse Sam Roberts.

September 18, 2000


"I am shocked and angered by the Mayor continues to put forth the proposal to build a new sports stadium on the West Side of Manhattan. "The Mayor has said that he is currently reviewing proposals from and meeting with several sports teams, including the Jets.

"I continue to be in opposition to a 'stand alone' stadium, but would support the construction of a stadium for the 2012 Olympics if it were built as part of other structures that would ultimately benefit New York City. Additionally, I am preparing to release my own request for proposals on ways to use the vast amounts of property available on the West Side, such as the development of affordable housing, a new media center, a bio-tech center and other commercial ventures.

"Yesterday, the Mayor noted that one of the major stumbling blocks to moving the Fulton Fish Market to the Bronx is concern for traffic congestion. This should be the same concern when he proposes placing a stand alone sports stadium on the West Side of Manhattan; traffic congestion would be a nightmare on weekdays and weekends.

"Although, like any New Yorker, I am excited about the possibility of the 2012 Olympics being held in New York City, I want to hear more from the people who would be most affected by such a proposal. That's why I believe all proposals should be reviewed more comprehensively before any final decision is reached "


Posted by Merkookio at 11:12 PM

He Said and She Said, but not really

Fallout from Photogate seemed everywhere today.

Newsday's Dan Janison reports how Fields fired her top consultant Joe Mercurio and he went public Friday claiming that her top staff had seen, approved and insisted the famous flier be printed and used. If Mercurio is correct, then it raises questions on the veracity of Fields herself and the judgment of her top staff, both at the campaign and at the Borough President's office. If Astoria Graphics had actually done the printing, then why was the contract with Winning Directions canceled?

The New York Times said Fields' campaing was in "turmoil" (as opposed to Newsday's characterization as "flailing") and that Mercurio made the additional claim that it was Fields Campaign Manager, Chung Seto, who had written a statement ascribing the blame to Winning Directions (a direct mail outfit) whereas the firm never actually apologized. Why would they if they were not responsible for the printing?

Meanwhile, the New York Post says that Fields knew the flier was doctored in advance, contradicting her disavowal.

In a separate Editorial, the Post says the Democratic infighting will guarantee a Bloomberg re-election.

For these and other stories, click below.

New doctored photo revelations hit floundering Fields campaign
by Dan Janison
July 9, 2005

Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields' flailing mayoral effort suffered a new blow Friday as a key consultant she'd just fired went public with a suggestion that Fields and top aides approved the use of a doctored photo in a campaign flier.

The flier featured a photo of Fields surrounded by people presumed to be political supporters -- though not all of them were. The images of two unidentified Asian-Americans were added into the picture, apparently for diversity's sake.

After Fields, a candidate for the Democratic nomination, announced Friday that her campaign "terminated" consultant Joseph Mercurio over "strategic differences," Mercurio gave a detailed account in an interview of how the flier and the photo came to be.

In it, Mercurio said he had opposed the photo's use, not because of the addition of Asian faces from stock, but because it wasn't a good use of campaign cash.

Different versions of the flier, with some showing whites and others showing Asians, went to Fields' chief of staff, her deputy borough president, her campaign treasurer and Fields herself, Mercurio said.

At a later point, he described how campaign manager Chung Seto and treasurer Milton Wilson explicitly insisted to him that a printing outfit other than the company Winning Directions be allowed to use the image. That was arranged, he said.

Winning Directions was blamed by Fields for the fiasco and dismissed, but not the other company, which Mercurio identified as Astoria Graphics. That company has not made any comments.

Fields later issued a statement asserting on the one hand that "his characterization of events is false," but saying at the same time she "would not dignify any of his accusations with a response."

The flap is expected to haunt Fields on the campaign trail a bit more, as damage to her rival Fernando Ferrer from his controversial statement to a police group about the 1999 shooting of Amadou Diallo appears to abate. That preceded a shake-up in Ferrer's campaign.

Fields Fires an Adviser. He Fires Back
by Patrick D. Healy and Randal C. Archibold
NY Times
July 9, 2005

The mayoral campaign of C. Virginia Fields slid into turmoil yesterday as she fired her senior adviser, who in turn accused her of misleading the public about what she knew of campaign fliers whose pictures had been doctored to suggest an ethnically diverse group of supporters.

The adviser, Joseph C. Mercurio, who had largely run the Fields campaign until yesterday, took the unusual step of going public with withering criticism of Ms. Fields and her other top aides. He said he was doing so because the campaign was using him as a scapegoat for recent fumbles that may damage Ms. Fields, a leading Democratic candidate and current Manhattan borough president.

The doctored photograph used a stock image of two Asian-Americans and other cut-and-paste images of her supporters to suggest that Ms. Fields drew ethnically diverse voters to a single event. It was included in a recently distributed campaign flier.

No less at issue is the image of Ms. Fields's candidacy itself, as she struggles to stabilize her campaign nearly two months before Primary Day and prevent Mr. Mercurio's accusations from tainting her reputation and raising questions about her judgment.

Ms. Fields, the only black candidate in the race, blamed Mr. Mercurio for the doctored flier, saying in an interview that he had been in charge of producing campaign materials and that the stock photos had been used without her knowledge.

"I found that to be something totally unacceptable, and I wanted to know, 'How did this come about?' " Ms. Fields said after arriving in Birmingham, Ala., where she grew up, for a fund-raiser last night. "Joe was a strategic adviser on a number of issues related to matters of that and so forth."

Yet a far different story emerged yesterday from Mr. Mercurio, a veteran political consultant whose company earned $144,500 in fees from the Fields campaign through the end of April, and who had been Ms. Fields's all-purpose aide for months when she had no campaign staff, even chauffeuring her to some events.

According to Mr. Mercurio, Ms. Fields and her top aides were well aware that the fabricated image was used in the flier, which, he added, was printed in spite of his objections. He said he viewed the flier as a waste of campaign money, but he described Ms. Fields and other top aides as determined to produce an image of the diverse base of voters that is crucial to winning the Democratic mayoral nomination this fall.

The flier shows blacks, whites, Hispanics, and Asian-Americans surrounding Ms. Fields; their faces were cut and pasted around the candidate's. Some of those people say they have not endorsed Ms. Fields, and the candidate said she does not know the two Asian-Americans in the picture.

Mr. Mercurio said, "There was a request from the candidate and the campaign to have more diversity in the piece, to be conscious of the various communities she wants as part of an inclusive campaign. It was clearly not a photo that was intended to be used in the final analysis."

Mr. Mercurio said several photos, including the stock images, were vetted by Ms. Fields; her new campaign manager, Chung C. Seto; the deputy borough president, Barbara Baer; and her campaign treasurer, Milton Wilson. Ultimately, Mr. Mercurio said, the image was used because the campaign staff rushed the flier into production before the Gay Pride Parade on June 26 and sought to save money by using a local printer, Astoria Graphics.

"They were desperate; the candidate was screaming for the piece," Mr. Mercurio said. "Everyone had seen all versions of it. But I said no, I didn't want it printed, because I was trying to put money into the mail piece that was being done. They printed it anyway."

As Ms. Fields arrived at a fund-raiser last night at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, she projected an air of calm, greeting family members and touring exhibits with Mayor Bernard Kincaid.

She said she refused to "engage in a back and forth" with Mr. Mercurio.

Pressed on whose account was true, Ms. Fields said of Mr. Mercurio's comments, "The characterization of it is certainly not true but I will not go into specifics with respect to any internal conversations or matters of the campaign."

The decision to fire him, she said, had been hers. "It was mine to make and I did it," she said.

Ms. Fields sought to cast Mr. Mercurio's departure as not unusual for campaigns: "One would like to have consistency throughout from the time that you start to the time that you end, but changes often take place." And she rejected the notion the campaign was on the ropes.

"The campaign is not in disarray," Ms. Fields said. "The campaign is continuing to move forward. I'm continuing to focus on the issues that I campaign about, going out talking to voters about my vision for this city.

"I talk about ways we can improve education, housing, create jobs, etc. That's the campaign and I am the candidate. So my vision for the city of New York has not changed.

"We are continuing to gain momentum and I believe that is the important part," she said.

Several analysts said they were surprised by the Fields-Mercurio split, and that it was too soon to assess the damage of the acrimony to her candidacy.

"Joe is a respected professional, but it is rare that a consultant to a team would turn on their principal," said George Arzt, a political strategist who has worked for Ms. Fields in the past but is not affiliated with a mayoral campaign this year.

"I think changing people in midstream is generally an insider game, but to some extent it shows money people that there is an instability in the campaign," Mr. Arzt added. "It would temporarily hurt there, but if she can rebound in a way that Freddy Ferrer has rebounded, there would be no permanent damage by September."

Perhaps the sharpest inconsistency in the stories of Ms. Fields and Mr. Mercurio is over the way the flier ended up in voters' hands.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Ms. Fields read a statement from a California-based company, Winning Directions, which appeared to take responsibility for the photo and called it a "graphic representation." Ms. Fields told reporters that she had accepted the company's admission of "their grave mistake."

Executives at Winning Directions did not return phone calls and an e-mail message yesterday. But an executive with Astoria Graphics confirmed at least part of Mr. Mercurio's account in an interview yesterday, and raised questions about the Fields campaign's statement.

Astoria's senior vice president, Alan Handell, who has worked with Mr. Mercurio in the past, said the campaign staff had provided the fabricated image to him and had asked for 50,000 fliers in time for the Gay Pride Parade. The order was dated June 21, and the fliers were shipped on June 24 at a cost of $5,000, he said.

"We still have some of the fliers - I guess they're no good anymore," Mr. Handell said.

Mr. Handell said he did not know who had created the image. Mr. Mercurio, who initially defended the image this week as a collage, and campaign aides said versions of the image had been developed with Winning Directions this spring.

But Mr. Mercurio said the image was provided to Astoria Graphics by Ms. Seto, the campaign manager, and emphasized that she, Ms. Fields, and other aides were aware that the photo was a composite. Mr. Mercurio also asserted that Winning Directions never actually apologized; instead, he charged, Ms. Seto wrote a statement that ascribed an apology to them, apparently to protect the Fields campaign from damage.

"I think this was handled badly by Chung Seto, and if I were the candidate, I would fire her," Mr. Mercurio said.

Ms. Seto declined to comment on Mr. Mercurio's attacks last night, but said she wanted to correct his version of one event: She said the fabricated image was produced early this year and used in a March campaign flier that was overseen by Mr. Mercurio, well before Ms. Seto joined the campaign six weeks ago.

"This is an image he should clearly take responsibility for," Ms. Seto said.

Doctored Flier, Flying Daggers
NY Post
By Frankie Edozien and Carl Campanile
July 9, 2005

Just hours after being abruptly sacked by C. Virginia Fields over a doctored campaign photo, consultant Joe Mercurio fired back yesterday - charging that the mayoral candidate had known in advance the picture was a sham.

Mercurio told The Post Fields rejected his repeated attempts to stop the mailer from being distributed and that she and others knew that two unknown Asian-Americans' faces had been added to the original photo and white faces removed.

"Virginia saw this before it went out," Mercurio said after being axed along with the direct-mail company, Winning Directions.

"Virginia saw it from April to July in more than a dozen versions," he said. "The original versions had Anglos in the picture [instead of the Asian-Americans]. It was changed along the way."

Yesterday, Fields, on a fund-raising trip to her hometown of Birmingham, Ala., told The Post that she had "probably not" seen the flier before it was distributed to voters. In any event, she said, she had no idea the photo was a composite.

"There was a process used that was not known, and it's a process that should have been discussed and made clear, and that was not done," she said.

In a statement last night in response to Mercurio's charges, Fields said: "I am very disappointed in Joe Mercurio's unprofessional behavior. His characterization of events is false. I will not dignify any of his accusations with a response."

She announced his firing yesterday morning, saying: "I learned the photo was taken from stock footage of two people unknown to the campaign. This is totally unacceptable and does not adhere to the standards I have set for myself and my campaign."

But Mercurio said the flier had been sent to a local printer, Astoria Graphics, by Fields' campaign manager Chung Seto and treasurer Milton Wilson over his objections and that it had been ripped off from Winning Directions.

He added that Fields' entire senior campaign staff had been e-mailed copies of the flier - with the doctored photo that was intended to make Fields appear more "inclusive."

But some insiders say hostility toward Mercurio had been growing even before the flap.

"He had no friends in this office or her government office," a source said. "He was gruff and not very nice."

Last month, Fields apologized after Mercurio made a disparaging remark about Geraldine Ferraro, a Fernando Ferrer supporter and the first woman to run for U.S. vice president.

Last night, there was no word as to who would replace Mercurio.

Meanwhile, with the African-American Fields stumbling, Ferrer, the Democratic front-runner, held a strategy session Thursday with his top black supporters.

"We're revving up to go to the next level," said Brooklyn state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery, who attended the meeting at the office of Ferrer pollster Global Strategies.

"We talked about how to mobilize to make sure that people are excited enough to come out and vote," she said. "The concern is what percentage of the African-American and Caribbean vote we can get for Freddy."

Ferrer and supporters believe there's an opportunity for him to win the primary outright by capturing 40 percent of the vote, thus avoiding a potentially divisive runoff.

Primar(il)y for Laughs
NY Post
July 9, 2005

How sad has the circus of Democratic mayoral wannabes become? Well, one top contender's campaign is rapidly coming unglued, over a doctored photograph.

The scandal started when a flyer from Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields' campaign turned out to include a photo of ostensible supporters that had been Photoshopped to include an Asian-American couple.

Fields probably thought she'd contained the problem when she abruptly fired top strategist Joseph Mercurio.

She should be so lucky. Last night, Mercurio hit back.

Contrary to Fields' assertion that no one on her campaign had seen the flyer before it was handed out, the veteran consultant said that her chief of staff, her deputy borough president and her treasurer had seen both before and after versions of the pamphlet.

"Virginia saw this before it went out." Mercurio said. "[She] saw it from April to July in more than a dozen versions." In fact, Mercurio said, "The original versions had Anglos in the picture" instead of the Asians. "It was changed along the way."

Then it was Fields' turn: "I am very disappointed in Joe Mercurio's unprofessional behavior," she said. "His characterization of events is false. I will not dignify any of his accusations with a response."

Someone's not being straight here.

Mercurio's been around long enough so that his word carries weight - and if he's right, then the woman most polls have as the No. 2 Democrat in the primary field has a major credibility problem.

In any event, New York hasn't heard the last of this.

Still, the fact that such a relatively trivial aside can suddenly explode into a major campaign issue tells you all you need to know about the lightweight nature of the Democratic field.

One top Democrat after another is confidently predicting Mayor Bloomberg's re-election- even though they're nominally supporting one or another of his opponents.

Poll after poll shows strong Democratic support for the mayor and widespread disenchantment by Democrats with their own party's choice of candidates.

In short, this isn't exactly a Democratic field of dreams - which may be why the voters aren't coming.

Bereft of issues, unable to make a convincing case that New York is broken and needs to be fixed, the Democratic Gang of Four is reduced to sniping at each other over largely parochial diversions of little concern to the voters. Well, at least they're keeping New York entertained.

Fields' Fired Campaign Adviser Says He Never Approved Release Of Flyer
NY1 News
July 9, 2005

The former campaign adviser to mayoral hopeful C. Virginia Fields told NY1 Friday that he never encouraged the publication of the controversial campaign flyer that has since resulted in his being kicked off the campaign.

Fields announced Friday morning that she had fired her top campaign adviser Joe Mercurio, but he says Fields and her campaign manager knew about the flier before it went out.

That flap followed Wednesday's revelation that the Fields campaign sent out a campaign flyer with a doctored photo showing the candidate with people from different races. The photo was actually a collage of four separate images.

Mercurio spoke out on Friday's edition of the "Road to City Hall."

"I didn't want the piece originally printed and I didn't want it printed in the final analysis," said Mercurio. "The campaign manager Chung Seto took the low-resolution pdf of the campaign literature in its last form which was in the drawer, not intending to be use, and she sent it to a local printer to be printed."

Meanwhile, Fields is standing by her decision to fire Mercurio.

"The characterization of it is not true, but I won't go into specifics with respect to any internal conversations or matters of the campaign. It was a design that I made. It was mine to make and I did it."

The New York Times reported Thursday that a picture of Fields with a group of firefighters was in violation of Fire Department rules banning the use of firefighter images for political purposes. The photo appeared on Fields' website and in a political mailing sent out last month.

Mercurio has stirred up controversy in the campaign before. He made disparaging comments about former Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro, who endorsed Fields opponent Fernando Ferrer. Fields later apologized.

The borough president's campaign is the second in this year's mayor's race to undergo a shakeup. In April, Ferrer lost his media strategist and communications director.

Fields axes campaign big over pix
NY Daily News
by Maggie Haberman
July 9, 2005

Virginia Fields fired her campaign guru yesterday after an embarrassing photo flap - but the jilted strategist wasn't taking his dismissal quietly.

Fields axed Joe Mercurio and her campaign-mail company, Winning Directions, because they produced a flyer with a photo that had been doctored to include people the campaign didn't know.

"This is totally unacceptable and does not adhere to the standards I have set for myself and my campaign," Fields said in a statement.

But Mercurio, who earlier this week strongly defended using the composite photo, saying it wasn't meant to deceive people, shot back that he had always objected to printing it because it showed people who aren't backing Fields.

Mercurio said others in Fields' camp - including Fields - had seen the photo and no objections were raised. "Everybody saw it ... in every version," Mercurio said.

Fields' campaign manager Chung Seto and treasurer Milton Wilson pushed to get it out a few weeks ago, he said, and they rushed the photo into print.

"I'm willing to fall on my sword, but I'm not willing to get trashed in the newspapers while I'm doing it," he said, still insisting Fields would be a great mayor.

He laid most of the blame on Seto, even though she joined the campaign in May, months after the original flyer was drafted. He also blamed Seto for how the fallout from the original story was handled.

The messy public fray seems destined to most benefit Democratic front-runner Fernando Ferrer, insiders said.

Asked about Mercurio's claims while she was fund-raising in Birmingham, Ala., last night, Fields said his "characterization ... is certainly not true."

"I think it's very regrettable, the lack of professionalism that's been reported surrounding this, but I have no further comment about it," Fields said. "I will not engage in back and forth in terms of what he said and she said."

Posted by Merkookio at 10:06 AM | TrackBack

July 08, 2005

Hell hath no fury...

The Politicker now reports that Joseph Mercurio, fired earlier today by Virginia Fields, is spilling the beans. While seeming to still support Fields as a candidate, he claims it was the Fields campaign staff that committed the Photoshop crime and Virginia Fields herself approved the questionable flyer.

Mercurio is putting the blame squarely at the feet of Chung Seto, Fields campaign manager, and Milton Wilson, the campaign treasurer.

If Fields saw or approved of the flyer, why is she denying it now? As some have said, this now is not so much about the crime, but the alleged cover-up.

Comments for the Politicker post are here.

Update: NY1 Inside City Hall interviewed Joe Mercurio on his and others' roles in Photo-Gate. For the first time, we hear him state that he was the one who talked Fields into running. The photoshopped flyer contained photos from a press conference held by Fields dealing with the Second Avenue Subway (Fields' position on that issue is another story altogether). While admitting to his role in the original design of the piece, he claims the flyer had not been finalized and was printed over his objections.

However, Fields claims Mercurio is "unprofessional" and she won't dignify his claims with a response. He says, "she knows I'm right."

To listen to the Inside City Hall interview (audio only), click here.

And in the NY1 Reporter's Roundtable, Tom Robbins of the Village Voice was heard to say, "... this is a wafer-thin candidate who -- with a hard look by the press in this town -- could not have stood up much longer, and the fact that she botched this one so badly is very telling about her capabilities."

To listen to the NY1 Reporters' Roundtable (audio only), click here.

Posted by Merkookio at 09:01 PM | TrackBack

Friday Morning Massacre

The Politicker is reporting that Joseph Mercurio has been fired as Virginia Fields top campaign consultant, and that Fields has terminated her contract with Winning Directions. The campaign claims that Mercurio's falling-on-his-sword is due to "strategic differences" ... sort of like "wanting to spend more time with my family."

Comments for the Politicker post are here.

Update: NY1 News reports on the campaign's "major shakeup." According to Mercurio, he did not approve, print or send out the flyer with the doctored photograph. Mercurio claims that all senior advisors in the campaign as well as Fields herself had seen and approved the flyer, contradicting Fields' statements from yesterday.

For the NY1 report text, click below.

To listen to the NY1 report (audio only), click here.

To listen to the WNBC report (audio only), click here.

Fields Fires Adviser In Wake Of Campaign Photo Scandals
NY1 News
July 8, 2005

Candidate for mayor C. Virginia Fields has announced a major shakeup in her campaign staff in the wake of two scandals involving photos used in her campaign for mayor.

Fields announced Friday morning that she has fired her top campaign adviser Joe Mercurio.

The New York Times reported Thursday that a picture of Fields with a group of firefighters was in violation of Fire Department rules banning the use of firefighter images for political purposes. The photo appeared on Fields' website and in a political mailing sent out last month.

That flap followed Wednesday's revelation that the Fields campaign sent out a campaign flyer with a doctored photo showing the candidate with people from different races. The photo was actually a collage of four separate images.

In a statement released Friday morning, Fields says: "This is totally unacceptable and does not adhere to the standards I have set for myself and my campaign."

Mercurio is taking no responsibility for the flier fiasco. He says originally the photo showed mostly whites, then two Asian faces were added.

"I didn't send it out and I didn't print it and I didn't ask for the initial changes in the piece," he said. "And everyone who was senior in the campaign saw it, and the people who needed to vet it who knew the people in the photographs didn't vet it."

Mercurio has stirred up controversy in the campaign before. He made disparaging comments about former Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro, who endorsed Fields opponent Fernando Ferrer. Fields later apologized.

The borough president's campaign is the second in this years mayor's race to undergo a shakeup. In April, Ferrer lost his media strategist and communications director.

Posted by Merkookio at 12:39 PM | TrackBack

Action is the thing to do

With something one might expect from the New York Post, the New York Times' Patrick Healy led Friday's coverage of Fields-gate with a puff-piece that has Fields' many victims laughing or gagging.

With phrases like "polite, pleasant woman" or "too nice to do the job," you start to wonder who bought Kool-Aid on 43rd Street.

But with "her brand of leadership lies in being consultative and inclusive," one looks for the 'advertisement' label at the top.

Healy also got it wrong stating the Fields campaign had relabeled the photo of her with NYC firefighters.

The New York Sun's Jill Gardiner reports that the Fields campaign was planning internal changes, but spends more time profiling the Mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, where Fields planned to attend a fundraiser.

For both articles, click below.

After Gaffes, Fields Faces Questions on Toughness
New York Times
July 8, 2005

The question has long dogged her candidacy: Is C. Virginia Fields tough enough to be mayor of New York?

Ever since this polite, pleasant woman joined the Democratic mayoral field last winter, the political and chattering classes have wondered whether she was too nice to do the job. Now, as Ms. Fields prepares to shake up her campaign after a week spent on the defensive, some are wondering how far she will go as she seeks to protect her political future.

Several of her advisers are still reeling from the campaign's decision to use a composite photograph on a recent flier, which made it look as if Ms. Fields, who is black, were being cheered by black, Hispanic, Asian and white supporters. The candidate acknowledged on Wednesday that the photo was doctored and blamed the firm that produced the flier, but the finger-pointing has not stopped there.

Ms. Fields thought campaign advisers erred in allowing a misleading photo to be used, said a spokeswoman, Kirsten Powers. "There will be a restructuring of the campaign, and changes will be made," Ms. Fields said.

How tenaciously she will undertake the restructuring or whether it will be cosmetic is hard to predict, advisers and supporters said. Speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the matter, several advisers blamed the controversy in part on her chief consultant, Joseph C. Mercurio, who oversees campaign material and initially defended the doctored photo. But Mr. Mercurio is a respected strategist who has been with Ms. Fields from the start of the campaign, and aides said she did not want to go overboard in reacting to the controversy.

In her nearly eight years as Manhattan borough president, it has not been Ms. Fields's style to lead with an iron fist (a la Giuliani) or a technocratic eye (a la Bloomberg). Instead, her brand of leadership lies in being consultative and inclusive, although she says she is steely and decisive when the moment demands both.

"She's not a micromanager, she's a consensus builder, and that can have good and bad points for a leader," said the Rev. Al Sharpton, who talks to Ms. Fields regularly but has not yet endorsed a mayoral candidate. "The good is that everyone can feel included, but the bad side is that she can take advice from so many people, and think it all over, she can be left looking indecisive or uncertain."

Yesterday, The New York Times reported that the Fields campaign used a photo of her with city firefighters in a political brochure, which fire officials said was contrary to their rules. As a result, the photo was relabeled on her campaign Web site to note that she had visited the firefighters in her capacity as borough president, and also noted that rival campaigns had photos of candidates with firefighters on their Web sites.

Within the Fields camp, the latest flare-up was not considered fatal, and polls regularly show her running second in the Democratic field of four. Yet advisers worried about what the flaps would say of the maturity and discipline of a campaign that is already spending its relatively scarce money heavily for the Sept. 13 primary without gaining much ground in the polls.

Ms. Fields said yesterday that her disavowal of the doctored photograph, and the coming changes in her campaign, would show her mettle as a leader.

"I think that when mistakes are made and missteps are taken, action is the thing to do," Ms. Fields said yesterday during a taped appearance on NY1 News that was to air last night. "Voters understand that in any campaign, as well as in any administration, mistakes can be made, missteps will be taken, etc. So I don't think in any way that reflects my accomplishments, my experience, my vision for the city."

Two senior advisers to Ms. Fields were harsher. It was "a lazy mistake inside the campaign," one of the advisers said. The second added, "Corners were cut to present an idealized political image." They laid the fault to Mr. Mercurio, who, as the senior consultant, has played the primary role in planning and approving campaign material.

It was unclear yesterday whether Mr. Mercurio would be affected in Ms. Fields's restructuring, though the two advisers said his status would change.

"Within the campaign, a lot of people feel Joe needs to be held responsible," the first senior adviser said. This adviser also noted that Ms. Fields had to apologize last month after Mr. Mercurio made an insulting remark about Geraldine Ferraro, the former New York congresswoman and vice presidential candidate, after she endorsed a Fields rival.

Other Fields supporters were less concerned yesterday. "Joe gives very sound advice, but Virginia also has no problem knocking heads if she needs people to straighten up," said Percy Sutton, the Harlem political leader who has endorsed Ms. Fields.

Mr. Mercurio said yesterday that his role would not be changing, noting that he ran the media issues meeting yesterday as usual. At the same time, he noted, duties can shift in a campaign as it adds more people: He and Ms. Fields brought in a campaign manager, Chung C. Seto, about six weeks ago.

Ms. Seto and Ms. Powers, the spokeswoman, are expected to remain in their positions through any restructuring. Less clear, political analysts said, is whether Ms. Fields and her team will make the right judgment calls when the tougher scrutiny and competition comes in August as the Sept. 13 primary approaches.

"The attention that comes to a New York mayoral campaign is intense, and this is the first big one for Fields and Mercurio," said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University poll. "One measure of them is how they handle the screw-ups like this. We'll see."

The New York Sun
July 8, 2005
Fields Campaign To Answer Crisis With `Internal Changes'
by Jill Gardiner

After a week of controversy over a doctored photograph used in one of her recent mailings, the mayoral candidate C. Virginia Fields said there would be "internal changes" in her campaign.

During a telephone interview last night about a fund-raising trip she has scheduled to her hometown of Birmingham, Ala., today, Ms. Fields, borough president of Manhattan, said the decisions about those changes had already been made.

She would not elaborate or say whether anyone on her staff would be fired, and her top campaign consultant, Joseph Mercurio, declined to comment.

It is not uncommon for candidates to switch top campaign aides after a public-relations crisis. One of the other three Democratic mayoral candidates, Fernando Ferrer, shook up his campaign staff earlier this year.

In Ms. Fields's hometown, the mayor, Bernard Kincaid, planned a reception for her at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Fund-raising cannot be done at the institute, but Mr. Kincaid said he was hoping to raise $25,000 for Ms. Fields during her visit.

The mayor of Birmingham, which with a population of more than 240,000 is Alabama's largest city, and the New York City mayoral candidate do not know one another but share a friend, Deborah Hill, a member of the City Council in Warrensville Heights, Ohio. Mr. Kincaid grew up with her and Ms. Fields was her college roommate.

"She mentioned to me that C. Virginia Fields was from Birmingham and was quote-unquote my home girl," Mr. Kincaid told The New York Sun.

He said it was an "honor" to support a Birmingham native like Ms. Fields, who has risen through the political ranks.

For her part, Ms. Fields, youngest daughter of a steelworker and a seamstress, said she was "very appreciative" that Mr. Kincaid agreed to hold the event and was looking forward to spending time with members of the Birmingham, Ala., community and the business leaders scheduled to attend this afternoon's reception.

Ms. Fields's career of activism started in that city, when in 1963 she marched in the civil-rights movement with the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and was arrested and jailed for six nights.

The fund-raising event is not her first outside the five boroughs. In late March, Ms. Fields had one in Atlanta, and she she said yesterday that she has another event planned in Boston.

Ms. Fields, who has raised roughly $1.4 million for her campaign, and the other candidates have until Monday to
raise money that will be declared before the next filing deadline.

Donations from residents who do not live in the city are not eligible for public matching dollars.

Mr. Kincaid said that in his first campaign for mayor in 1999, he raised $130,000 and beat a candidate who had raised $1.3 million.

Mr. Kincaid said he was not aware of this week's controversy involving the campaign photo.

Ms. Fields said again yesterday, as she did earlier this week, that the photo would no longer be used. The picture, which featured her at a news conference in the middle of an ethnically diverse group, was patched together electronically from several different images.

Posted by Merkookio at 11:03 AM

July 07, 2005

Manufacturing Inclusion the Fields Way

The New York Post reports that some of the real people in her notorious campaign photo (aside from the two Asians) were not aware of their inclusion in the flyer and have not endorsed her. David Givens, former chair of Community Board 11, claimed it was misleading, which contradicts Fields' effort to make a convincing argument otherwise.

Robert George (also of the Post) suggests a fake photograph cannot make up for lack of substance or credibility.

Glenn Thrush from Newsday perhaps had the best line: "See Virginia squirm."

Maggie Haberman of the Daily News reports that John Ruiz, a candidate for Phil Reed's City Council seat was "shocked" that he was included in the photo, and that he has not endorsed anyone in the Mayor's race. William Moore, also in the photo, said he is likely to support Ferrer.

For these stories, and more, click below.

NY Post

July 7, 2005 -- One of the people shown in a doctored photograph created by Virginia Fields' campaign yesterday expressed outrage that he is being used in the flier. "I was shocked," David Givens, former chair of Community Board 11, told The Post.

"If you're going to put my photo in campaign material, please tell me. I haven't endorsed her."

Givens, who recalled standing next to Fields at a press conference she held as Manhattan borough president 18 months ago, called her office to complain.

"They told me they already pulled it," he said.

"It was misleading," he added. "When you're waking up in the morning and friends and family are calling saying, 'Your picture is in the News and The Post,' you're thinking, 'My God, what have I done?' "

Givens said he recognized everyone in the photo - except for two Asian-Americans - as people who attended a press conference with Fields about the Second Avenue subway.

Trying to stem the political fallout, Fields blamed a direct-mail company for the fake photo, in which people of different ethnicities were made to appear alongside Fields.

The Democratic hopeful said the direct-mail firm, Winning Direction, had sent the campaign a dummy flier - with the composite phot - just to give campaign officials an idea of how it would look, but it was never have supposed to have been distributed to voters.

At a press conference on the steps of City Hall steps, Fields read a statement from the direct-mail outfit in which it said it "regrets the mistake."

The controversial "picture" features a multi-ethnic group that was intended to make Fields appear "inclusive" - two Asian-Americans, one white male, four black males, one black woman and one Hispanic woman.

Meanwhile, Mayor Bloomberg's campaign mailed out a brochure with what it said were real cops- in fake uniform - to comply with NYPD regulations.

The "Safest Big City in America" flier shows Bloomberg with people in uniforms with "collar brass" on their lapels, indicating they are from the 21st and 31st precincts, which don't exist.

A campaign spokesman, Stu Loeser, said the officers are real but they had to wear fake uniforms - and appear in a fake station-house setting - because it would be against regulations to use on-duty cops.

As far as he knows, Loeser said, there's no prohibition on cops appearing in campaign literature when they're not on duty.

"The people who look like cops are cops," said Loeser.

-- Additional reporting by Larry Celona

NY Post

July 7, 2005 -- One hopes C. Virginia Fields is learning an important lesson this week: A candidate for mayor preaching diversity needs more than a Martin Luther King Jr. connection and a computer-generated picture.

Especially if everyone knows the picture is fake.

Martin Luther King Jr. once shared a dream of universal brotherhood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Yesterday, Fields sought to escape a nightmare of Photoshopped brotherhood on the steps of City Hall.

Here's the Manhattan borough president's official explanation for how her consultants (accidentally, they now say) came to merge different pictures to show a multicultural press conference that never was: It was a "graphic representation" to denote the fact that she is for "all New Yorkers."

Ironically, yesterday's bid for damage control was an "inclusive multicultural press conference" - several black faces, a couple of whites, an Hispanic with a "Latinos con C. Virginia Fields" poster - and a couple of Asians.

But as she strove to explain the "collage," the words she actually needed to confront were "authenticity" and "credibility."

As campaign "crimes" go, Photoshopping is a misdemeanor. But questions of credibility pose a problem for any candidate. And especially for one whose campaign is built upon her biography.

The leading paragraph in the now-pulled flier reads: "At the age of 17, C. Virginia Fields was arrested with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and spent six days in Birmingham, Alabama's infamous jail."

Yesterday, Fields returned to the theme: "My life, my work and my commitment speaks to inclusion throughout the city and particularly this borough. It is an insult to suggest otherwise."

No one disputes that her '60s moment was defining. But what about today? Inclusion, fine. What else?

And what does it say that the campaign allows something like this faked photo? We believe in inclusion so it doesn't really matter if this isn't actually real. It's the thought that counts.

Fields even admits that she didn't know the two Asian people in the collage - or if they support her candidacy. Maybe all you need is the appearance of inclusion?

More irony: She also insisted defiantly that she "won't be deterred by a few who raise issues where there weren't any." In fact, this controversy- like Freddy Ferrer's damaging revival of the Diallo controversy- is self-generated. It didn't come from the outside - unless Fields considers her consultants, Winning Directions, "outside."

As for raising issues "where there weren't any," well, the photo flap is getting attention largely because, when it comes to issues in this campaign, well ... there really aren't any.

Fields (like her opponents in the primary) has presented hardly any substantive positions on economic development, housing, the budget, whatever- that, uh, sharpens her image. Mainly, she just claims she wants to be "A Mayor for All New Yorkers."

Sure, that's a more positive statement than Ferrer's old "Two New Yorks" theme. But it still requires her to jump on a "racial" issue to help define her - a la last week's statement that the Howard Beach attack proved a lack of "moral leadership" in a city with "far too many hate crimes in recent years."

OK; as with any crime, even one is too many. But where is the substance, the vision of what C. Virginia Fields wants to do - on this or any issue?

As this incident, um, illustrates, anybody can put together a photo-op. But in the end, there has to be some reality behind it, too.

C. Virginia Fields tries damage control over doctored photo
July 7, 2005

See Virginia squirm.

Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields held an emergency news conference Wednesday to control the damage wrought by revelations her mayoral campaign had doctored a photo in a multicultural campaign flier to include two unknown Asian nonsupporters.

The composite photo, first reported in the New York Press last week, shows the Manhattan Borough president at a news conference standing beside several people, including an Asian man and woman -- selected by Fields' ironically named direct mail company, Winning Directions.

"By and large, I knew all of [the people in the montage], except the two Asians in there, I don't know them," said Fields, who conspicuously surrounded herself with Asian backers on the steps of City Hall.

The borough president, whose campaign has capitalized on front-runner Fernando Ferrer's gaffes, recently hired campaign manager Chung Seto, who is Chinese, the highest position held by an Asian-American in any campaign.

Fields blamed the tactic on the company and promised to "withdraw" the mailing -- although it has already been shipped to voters throughout the city. Winning Directions will continue to create her mailings and no heads will roll, she said.

Both of the people in the photo had attended Fields' events, but are not supporters, according to an official with knowledge of the situation.

Ominously, Fields refused to rule out the existence of other doctored photos, saying her staff was looking into the matter.

The presser had a weird Watergate aura, with a rattled Fields saying she wanted to make it "perfectly clear" no wrongdoing had been done, TV reporters inexplicably referring to her as "Madam President" and one TV person asking her "who ... knew what, when?"

Fields blames sham on flacks
July 7, 2005

Mayoral hopeful Virginia Fields blamed a consultant yesterday for inserting a pair of anonymous Asians into a campaign photo, but said it was no diversity deception.

Several people in the doctored photo said they were surprised to end up in a campaign mailing. And the identity of the Asian couple whose image was superimposed over a Fields supporter remained unknown.

"By and large I know all [those pictured], except the two Asians," said Fields, who blamed the gaffe on San Francisco-based Winning Directions. She said the flyer has been pulled.

There was "no intent to mislead, trick or confuse the public about any photo that was shown in my literature," Fields said at a City Hall news conference, where she was surrounded by a multi-ethnic crowd.

The firm retouched a photo of Fields at an April 14, 2004, news conference in which she discussed the Second Ave. subway with Community Board members and district leaders. Fields said the photo did not give the impression that those pictured were backing her. But some in the photo disagreed.

"I was shocked," said John Ruiz, a district leader who is running for the seat of term-limited City Councilman Philip Reed (D-East Harlem). "I haven't endorsed anyone in this race."

Also pictured was Geoff Eaton, chief of staff to Reed and believed to be a supporter of City Council Speaker Gifford Miller.

William Moore, another district leader who appears in the photo, said he backed Fernando Ferrer last time and likely will again, though he said he "loves" Fields.

Chuck Warren, chairman of Community Board 8, said that "even though I like Virginia Fields," he would prefer the photo not be used, since he also chairs the League of Conservation Voters and hasn't made any personal endorsements.

Fields said she accepts the company's "acknowledgment addressing their grave mistake in taking responsibility for this blunder."

Fields angrily rejected critics' claims that she had to fake support from diverse groups.

"My life, my work ... speaks to inclusion, and it is an insult for anyone to suggest anything otherwise," she said.

The New York Sun
July 7, 2005
Fields Photo Is `Graphic Representation'
by Jill Gardiner

After being criticized for including a doctored photo in a campaign mailing, Democratic mayoral candidate, C. Virginia Fields, tried to control the damage yesterday, but seemed to raise some new questions.

Ms. Fields, borough president of Manhattan, said the photo, which featured her in the center of an ethnically diverse group at what appears to be a news conference, was created by a consulting firm called Winning Directions.

She read a statement from the firm yesterday in which it acknowledged its misstep and said the image was intended as a "graphic representation" of her broader campaign message. A receptionist who answered the phone at the firm later in the day said officials there would not comment further.

Ms. Fields said she would immediately discontinue the mailing. She said that she did not believe there were any other altered photos, but that her campaign would continue an evaluation. She did not take direct responsibility for the error and said suggesting that she "had to use altered photos to show broad-based . could not be further from the truth."

When asked whether she knew all nine people that appear with her in the photo, she said: "By and large, I know all of them except the two Asians that were in there - I don't know them."

City Council Member Charles Barron, who has endorsed Ms. Fields, said the story was "much to do about nothing." An associate professor of government at American University, Candice Nelson, said it sounded "unethical."

The New York Sun
July 7, 2005
ANDREW WOLF on the Mayoral Race

C. Virginia Fields really seems to have fallen into a silly, stupid situation. Her staff, not content with staging an actual photograph for her campaign literature, instead resorted to creating a composite. The photo purportedly shows

All of the people are real, but they have been inserted into the final product from four separate original photos.

Is this wrong? Probably not.The individuals were meant to be emblematic of Ms. Fields's campaign theme of inclusiveness. Is this worse than electronically removing blemishes from her face, or lightening the background so she stands out?

Still, there is a line out there, one that shouldn't be crossed. In one memorable instance in the Bronx special election to fill a City Council vacancy early in 2001, the same technology was used to make it look as if Saikou Diallo, the father of the African immigrant who died in a hail of police bullets, was shaking hands with Edwin Ortiz, a candidate for the vacant position.

It was soon discovered that the face of Mr. Ortiz had been substituted for that of Pedro Espada, the former state senator who was Mr. Ortiz's sponsor. One dead giveaway was the wedding ring on Mr. Ortiz's hand - it was well-known that Mr. Ortiz is gay and unmarried.

Mr. Ortiz lost the race, although probably not just because of this embarrassing incident. He has since left the Democratic Party and joined the Independence Party, in which he led the effort that seized control of the Bronx party organization, delivering it into the hands of the allies of party boss Lenora Fulani.

Posted by Merkookio at 10:35 AM

Fields violates city rules with FDNY photo

In yet another revelation, the New York Times reports that Virginia Fields' campaign has violated city rules with a photo of herself speaking to NYC uniformed fire fighters used in her campaign literature. Even though -- as the Fields campaign stated -- the photo was taken in her capacity as borough president, it is being used for political purposes and could give the impression that fire fighters are supporting her candidacy.

For the New York Times article, click below.

Update: as of July 10, the photo is still on the Fields campaign's web site.

Photograph in Fields Flier May Violate Fire Dept. Rule
NY Times
July 7, 2005

The mayoral candidate C. Virginia Fields has been using a photograph of herself with New York City firefighters in campaign materials, in an apparent violation of city rules against using unauthorized photos of firefighters for political purposes.

The revelation of the firefighters photo comes as Ms. Fields's campaign is still dealing with fallout from a separate campaign flier that included a photograph doctored to make it appear as if the candidate were surrounded by an ethnically diverse group of people. Ms. Fields, a leading Democratic candidate and the Manhattan borough president, is considering a campaign shake-up as a result, aides said yesterday.

The photo of firefighters with Ms. Fields appeared in her first major political mailing to voters last month and was also still among the photos on her campaign Web site last night. The image shows a casual Ms. Fields speaking to a group of firefighters in a city firehouse.

The New York Fire Department does not permit the use of photos of firefighters in political campaigns, fire officials said yesterday, and also bars their use in advertisements unless explicit permission is granted by the deputy commissioner for public information. It rarely is, said the deputy commissioner, Francis X. Gribbon.

Asked to assess the campaign's use of the photo, Mr. Gribbon said he thought it was inappropriate. "For the purposes of a political campaign, I would not approve of that photograph," he said. "We don't endorse political candidates or become involved in campaigns in any way. So we would not allow it."

That said, he noted that political figures like Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and candidates for office sometimes appear in news photographs and on television with uniformed officers including those from the Fire Department. But the department generally frowns on candidates using informal pictures in a political context, Mr. Gribbon said.

Ms. Fields's campaign manager, Chung C. Seto, said the photo with firefighters had been taken of Ms. Fields in her capacity as borough president and that she did not find it inappropriate to include it in campaign material.

Earlier yesterday, Ms. Fields held a news conference to acknowledge the doctored photograph of her with supporters, which was in fact a composite of four separate photographs. The images were manipulated to show Ms. Fields surrounded by Asian-Americans, whites, Hispanics and blacks at what appears to be a single event.

Advisers to Ms. Fields described her as annoyed by the misstep, and said she viewed the cause as miscommunication within the campaign. As a result, they said, Ms. Fields plans to reassess the responsibilities of her staff, including those of Joseph C. Mercurio, her chief political consultant.

One adviser who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the photo said that Mr. Mercurio would eventually share more of his authority over political strategy, paid media and direct mail with others on the campaign staff, in particular Ms. Seto.

Mr. Mercurio said in The Daily News yesterday that the photograph was a "collage," and defended the use of such composites as not unusual in campaigns.

He said yesterday that he did not believe his role in the campaign would change.

At her news conference, Ms. Fields blamed the company that produced her campaign literature, Winning Directions, a national firm. Ms. Fields read aloud from a letter from Winning Directions expressing regret at the mistake, but suggesting that creating a composite image is "in keeping with standard practices of the graphics industry."

"I accept Winning Directions' acknowledgement addressing their grave mistake and taking responsibility for this blunder," Ms. Fields said on the steps of City Hall flanked by several dozen Asian-American, Latino, African-American and white supporters.

She suggested that the spirit of the image was in keeping with her record on diversity and the thrust of her campaign, whose slogan is "A Mayor for All New Yorkers."

Yet she admitted that she could not identify two faces in the composite photograph.

Reporters asked Ms. Fields whether the gaffe indicated her ability to manage a campaign and, if she were to win in November, New York City.

Ms. Fields said the press conference showed that she was handling the issue and was a capable leader.

Wouldn't you rather have simply taken a single photograph of the kind of ethnically diverse New Yorkers you see all around you, a reporter asked.

"In hindsight, absolutely," Ms. Fields replied.

Posted by Merkookio at 03:59 AM

July 06, 2005

Once you get Gate...

It wasn't the snappiest of Gates, but the Politicker was first on this front with Head-Gate, describing how WNBC's Tim Minton raised that oft-heard, but still serious question: "Who in the campaign knew what when?" And like many gates, it's not the crime, but the cover-up. This afternoon, Virginia Fields quickly threw together a press conference on the steps of City Hall to place the blame on Winning Directions, her direct mail consultants.

Said Fields, "there is no intent to mislead, trick or confuse the public about any photo that was shown in my literature."

Say what? (many believe the "C" in C. Virginia Fields stands for "confused")

But according to a WABC news report, Fields said she didn't know everyone in the photo -- specifically the two Asians -- or even if they support her candidacy.

Comments for Head-Gate are here.

The WABC news report is here. (.mpg file, about 10 megs)

Posted by Merkookio at 05:56 PM

Press picks up story ... a week late

No, not the NY Press, which as reported below, broke the story of the Virginia Fields' campaign use of doctored photos back on June 29th. The corporate press failed to discover (or touch) the story until July 6th. Even the Observer's Ben Smith (who seems to falsely suggests others of fabricating stories) didn't post it on his Politicker blog until yesterday, prompted by Chris Brodeur. For the pundits' comments to Virtual Virginia, go here.

The dam seemed to break today with stories from the Daily News (front page no less), the New York Post and NY1. With the latter, maybe that will give Dominic Carter and Davidson Goldin something to talk about for a few months.

For those stories, click below.

And for a readable version of the doctored flyer, click here.

Old collage try fails
Doctored pic embarrasses Fields campaign

This campaign flyer for Democratic mayoral hopeful Virginia Fields is intended to show that the Manhattan borough president has diverse ethnic support.

A picture isn't always what it seems - especially in politics.

Democratic mayoral wanna-be Virginia Fields - whose campaign slogan is "A Mayor for All New Yorkers" - cut-and-pasted a diverse group of citizens into a campaign flyer in a bid to make it look like she has broad support.

The photo shows the Manhattan borough president standing in front of a TV microphone surrounded by a multiethnic group - black, Asian, Latino and white.

Anyone looking at the picture might be forgiven for thinking it was a real scene from the campaign trail.

But Fields' campaign guru Joe Mercurio acknowledged yesterday that the picture was actually a "collage" created from at least four different photos - and that an Asian couple, a woman who appears to be white or Hispanic and men of different races were all pasted into the image.

"It's actually four photographs," Mercurio told the Daily News. "We were putting together a representation of the kind of support she has and the kinds of people she is reaching out to."

Mercurio insisted that such "composite" pictures are not unusual in campaigns and that there was no attempt to mislead anyone with the flyer, which includes the "A Mayor for All New Yorkers" slogan.

"It is not supposed to imply a specific event," added Mercurio of the picture, which was first reported by the New York Press. "I think it does imply the kind of support she has."

Her mayoral rivals declined to comment. But the cut-and-paste job came as a surprise to several political operatives.

"It's something that is embarrassing, and you shouldn't do it," said one campaign veteran.

Others were astounded that Fields' campaign aides didn't simply assemble a real group of diverse New Yorkers.

"Candidates should always strive for accuracy," said Rachel Leon, executive director of the political watchdog group Common Cause New York. "I think she should go out tomorrow and find a group of diverse supporters and take a real picture. In New York, that shouldn't be hard."

"It's kind of the easy way out," said Ken Sherrill, a political science professor at Hunter College. "Does it mean they have someone in the office who is adept at Photoshop, but not the political people to round up a group like that? I don't know."

The bogus picture will put Field in a corner, said GOP political consultant Roger Stone. "It's now incumbent on C. Virginia Fields to prove she does have diverse support," he said. Mercurio declined to say how many of the flyers the campaign printed or where they have been distributed.

It's not the first time that campaigns have played fast and loose with photos. In the most recent presidential contest, Democratic nominee John Kerry was pasted by rivals into a shot with Jane Fonda - aka Hanoi Jane - at an anti-Vietnam War rally.

With Maggie Haberman and Bill Hutchinson
Originally published on July 6, 2005

NY Post

July 6, 2005 -- Virginia Fields' campaign admitted yesterday that it doctored a photograph on one of its fliers to make it appear the mayoral hopeful was accompanied by Asian and black supporters.

Fields' chief consultant Joseph Mercurio said that the photo in the handout - "Virginia Fields, Democrat, a Mayor for All New Yorkers" - is actually four separate pictures that were melded together into one.

Mercurio said the fake photo was intended to represent Fields' "inclusiveness."

The questionable picture features a rainbow coalition - two Asian-Americans, one Hispanic-looking man, one white male, three black males, one black woman and one white woman.

The photo is made to look as if it were taken at a single event - a Fields press conference.

The accompanying flier text says Fields would be a mayor who pays attention to New Yorkers "in every borough and every neighborhood."

Fields' Democratic opponents immediately tore into the scam.

"They Photoshopped this? They admit it?" asked a top aide at a rival campaign.

"You've made my day."

A staffer at a second campaign questioned why the photo hadn't been vetted more thoroughly.

"This is something that should have been caught, that should have been seen," said the staffer.

He declined to say anything on the record, preferring to let the Manhattan borough president take the hit by herself.

Jerry Skurnik, a veteran political consultant who's not involved in the mayor's race, said Fields' campaign blew it.

"You shouldn't do that," declared Skurnik.

Mercurio defended the flier, saying there was no intent to deceive.

"This is just a representation," Mercurio said. "There was no attempt to make it look like anything other than a collage."

He added, "It's not purporting to be anything in terms of a particular meeting. It's symbolic of the support she has. There was no attempt to make this look like anything other than a collage."

All public polls show Fields running second to Fernando Ferrer in the four-way Democratic primary, with City Council Speaker Gifford Miller and Rep. Anthony Weiner trailing.

As the only African-American woman in the race, Fields has been largely immune from attacks from foes who have to worry about upsetting black voters.

Virginia Fields Campaign Photo Exposed As Fake
NY1 News
July 06, 2005

Mayoral hopeful C. Virginia Fields is in some hot water after it was revealed that a photograph she used in a campaign flyer was doctored to make it look like the Manhattan borough president has broad support among new Yorkers with diverse backgrounds.

The picture, on a flyer with a tag line reading "Virginia Fields, Democrat, a Mayor for All New Yorkers," shows Fields standing with a diverse group of people from different races, including two Asian-Americans, one Hispanic-looking man, a white male, three black males, a black woman and a white woman.

Fields' chief campaign consultant, Joe Mercurio admitted the picture was a composite of four separate photos, but that it was meant to show that she does have broad support and was not intended to deceive anyone.

Posted by Merkookio at 11:44 AM