Press Relations the Suarez Way

I asked him to think about my question again. What does he want to achieve? Is his goal to expose alleged conflicts of interest or is it to work peacefully with the governor and the oversight board in resolving the city's financial future?

"That question is directed at you," he snapped. "That question is directed at the media. What do you want to achieve? Do you want to, as the Herald seems to be trying to do, frustrate my attempts to run the city and to streamline the city and to reduce taxes, which is a concept they find extremely distasteful."

A moment later he vowed, "I will not be deterred."
Suarez is loath to admit he has made any mistakes. During our interview he would acknowledge having erred only once since taking office. "If I had it to do over again, I would wait until I had a manager before I tried to push through streamlining reforms," he said, referring to his demand for the resignations of all department heads.

A hollow concession, inasmuch as he was forced into admitting this mistake by the State Attorney's Office, which found he had violated the city charter and which threatened to remove him from office if he did not acknowledge his error.

Stating the obvious, Suarez added, "Why get into all these hassles with the state attorney? It's not worth the fight. Do you think it was worth being put into the newspaper as having possibly violated the law in a civil and criminal way? Hell, no."

The candor was short-lived as he refused to recognize any other missteps on his part. "That's the biggest one you are going to get me to admit," he said.

Suarez is obsessed with the Miami Herald, so much so that he can barely speak on any topic for five minutes without interjecting something derogatory about the newspaper. His description of Herald reporters and editors: "Really, really, really arrogant and ignorant."

"The Herald," he continued, "has painted me as an individual who is, who is -- " He couldn't finish the sentence. As he paused and stared down at the conference table, you could imagine the words he was considering: crazy, incompetent, deranged. When he looked back up, his expression was dark. "You've seen how the Herald has painted me," he said in a low voice. "Why do I need to go into this? The point is I should be asking you the questions. You should be investigating some of these people who are taking potshots at me."

Abruptly changing the direction of the interview, Suarez began teasing Powell (whom he repeatedly referred to as Robert Andrew Lloyd Webber Powell) for visiting the mayor's house last November. Powell explained -- as he had at the time -- that one of Suarez's staffers had invited him. "You think that's normal, to go to the mayor's house on the Friday of Thanksgiving? And it is somehow weird for me to visit a lady at 10:30 at night?" Suarez inquired, referring to the now famous incident in which he showed up unannounced and uninvited at the woman's front door.

"Frankly, if you take both situations," he went on, "I think it is a little bit more of an invasion of privacy for a reporter to go to the home of the mayor on Thanksgiving Friday, okay -- whether [my staff] suggested it or not -- than for the mayor who tries to call a lady who writes a nasty letter and failing to reach her I go by her house at 10:15 and she comes to the door with curlers and the phone in her hand. I checked to see if the lights were on. He [pointing to Powell] obviously didn't check to see or to notice that we were all trying to pack and get out of town so we could have a couple of days of peace and quiet."

I tried to bring Suarez back to a more relevant issue -- the criticism that he has surrounded himself with aides who will not challenge his decisions or warn him when he is about to make a serious blunder. "That is not at all for your determination or for discussion today," he snorted in response. "I hire whoever the heck I feel like. You can evaluate us as a team. I don't tell you how to hire people for New Times; don't tell me how to hire people here. You should evaluate the sum product of what we do and let me internally function the way I want."

Suarez also did not want to discuss what advice he has received from friends and supporters. "It is absolutely no business of yours," he said. "But I will tell you, even though it is no business of yours, that most of my private counseling, most of my friends -- my wife, my family, with the possible exception of my son -- have counseled that I slow down. But I don't think that is the correct advice. I don't see any wisdom in it."

Later he added, "It's like the whole world is looking for a way to trip me up. Why is that? Can anyone explain that to me?"

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