Why Villar minus Raigosa matters

David Zahniser asks the questions in a piece the LA Weekly posted early on its website:

Since he brought it up and all, what is he taking responsibility for? On Friday, less than an hour after the press release went out, the Los Angeles Daily News Web site initially reported that the demands of Villaraigosa’s job had caused the couple to separate. Villaraigosa’s press staff quickly called the newspaper to correct the record, saying such an assertion is untrue. If they were willing to rule out his work as a cause, why not rule out the other possibilities?

Faced with the question about another romantic relationship, Villaraigosa shut down. “My family and I have the right during this difficult time to go through this process free of that kind of speculation,” he declared. But by refusing to answer the question, Villaraigosa was in fact fueling that speculation, which began months ago once eagle-eyed observers of city politics noticed that he’d stopped wearing his wedding ring. (Villaraigosa said it no longer fit because he had lost so much weight.)

Here’s why it matters: Four months ago, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced that he had had his own affair. On its face, the notion of a side romance by a San Francisco mayor might seem like tame stuff. But Californians suddenly had a very different perspective on San Francisco’s mayor once they learned that Newsom had been seeing the wife of a longtime friend. In short, they got a fuller understanding of the man who represents them.

GOP presidential nominee Rudy Giuliani had his own messy divorce that resulted in terrible personal consequences for his family. Neither of his children are speaking to him, and Giuliani, in fact, did not speak to his daughter at her own high school graduation. We learned that because the New York Post reported on that event. Because of those reports, voters have a clearer understanding of Giuliani, a man known for freezing out those closest to him.

Villaraigosa’s only publicly known affair, spelled out in new detail in a recent New Yorker profile, described how, on the morning after his victory in a spring primary for a state Assembly seat in 1994, he disappeared for a few days with another woman, leaving his wife in the uncomfortable position of calling his political allies as she tried to locate her husband.

If Villaraigosa engaged in another extramarital affair, that relationship could be utterly mundane. But it could also involve a city commissioner or a city contractor, a lobbyist or a land-use lawyer, a reporter or a renters’-rights advocate. And if Villaraigosa has been seeing anyone whose work intersects with his public duties, then the public deserves to know.

Villaraigosa isn’t talking, however, leaving the public with tightly choreographed presentations.

I'm not surprised to learn that it was NBC4's Laurel Erickson who asked the question about an affair at the mayor's Monday Look at Mea Culpa press conference — she often shouts out the first indelicate question at pressers.

Sherry Bebitch Jeffe: What was Antonio thinking with that press conference?

Browse the LAO Antonio Villaraigosa archive

More by Kevin Roderick:
Standing up to Harvey Weinstein
The Media
LA Times gets a top editor with nothing but questions
LA Observed Notes: Harvey Weinstein stripped bare
LA Observed Notes: Photos of the homeless, photos that found homes
Recent Villaraigosa stories on LA Observed:
Villaraigosa marries in weekend ceremony in Mexico
DNC: Garcetti and Villaraigosa to speak
Villaraigosa acting more like a candidate
Villaraigosa to host Clinton funder in Beachwood Canyon home
Friday news and notes: Police, politics, water and more
Villaraigosa buys in Beachwood Canyon for $2.5 million
Villaraigosa opts out of Senate race -- and now it gets interesting
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