She dated Alex Padilla too

Mirthala Salinas got around in the club of Latino elected officials. David Zahniser, still at the LA Weekly, reports tonight that the mayor's current main squeeze previously dated Council President — now state Senator — Alex Padilla, who is single. (Speaker Fabian Nunez's office confirms he dated her as well.) Salinas made the rounds apparently while she reported on politics for Telemundo 52. Although the station claims she has stopped covering the mayor, Zahniser leads with her reading the story about Villaraigosa's divorce on the air. Also:

A rising star in Spanish-language journalism, Salinas made her way to Sacramento last summer, interviewing the mayor as he pushed a bill to strip the school board of its powers. And just three weeks ago — months after she had supposedly shifted away from daily reportage — Salinas could be seen conducting interviews with teachers-union bigwig A.J. Duffy, broaching the topic of dropout rates in a segment on school reform. Of course, the man pushing the issue of dropout rates is also the man Salinas is seeing.

Salinas did not return six calls made by the L.A. Weekly over the past three weeks.

And then there is the mayor's relationship with Telemundo itself, aside from Salinas' involvement. Zahniser:

You didn't need a press conference to know that Villaraigosa had climbed into bed with Telemundo, a Spanish-language network owned by NBC Universal. While the mayor’s behind-the-scenes squeeze introduced news segments on him, Telemundo gave the mayor even more gratuitous airtime, repeatedly running public-service announcements that featured — who else? — our city’s mayor....

One PSA that ran throughout the month of May — and regularly on Telemundo’s 6 o’clock news — featured Villaraigosa gushing about the importance of reading at the “Feria del Libro,” a children’s book fair. Another showed Villaraigosa seated in an overstuffed chair — think Alistair Cooke on Masterpiece Theatre, albeit en español — talking about the danger of earthquakes.

Villaraigosa used the latter spot to plug “Ready L.A.,” an emergency-preparedness program. But in reality, he was plugging himself, snaring lucrative airtime on the network’s dime. The 6 o’clock news, anchored by Salinas, even managed to show both PSAs — double billing for Villaraigosa! — during one 30-minute broadcast, a virtual gift of media to a politician obsessed with his own poll numbers.

Telemundo executives would not comment on the relationship, saying the channel does not discuss the personal lives of its employees. But Victor Franco, the station’s vice president for community relations, defended the PSAs, saying they contain information that is “important to our viewers.”

And in a way, Telemundo’s subtle promotion of Villaraigosa isn’t all that different from other media en español. Univision — the network whose longtime figurehead, Jerrold Perenchio, poured $1 million into the mayor’s L.A. Unified takeover bid — runs its own weekly news segment with the mayor called “A Su Lado.” The phrase translates into “On Your Side” in English. With such a friendly title, what viewer wouldn’t conclude that the mayor is firmly in his or her column?

More by Kevin Roderick:
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