You can read his lips in a six-minute smooch that catches Romer in the middle of a close, personal consultation with B.J. Thornberry, his former deputy chief of staff, in the front seat of a car parked outside Dulles Airport. The kiss was captured in 1995, five years after Romer denied having an affair with Thornberry. The denial came in June 1990, when Romer and his wife, Bea, exited a plane at Stapleton for a hastily assembled press conference at which the governor would respond to a story just printed in Westword. The article was false, Romer said. He was not having an affair with his top aide. Instead, he and Thornberry had a "professional" relationship.
Last Friday, Romer and Bea disembarked from another plane--this time at Centennial Airport--for another hastily assembled press conference. That very morning, Romer said, Bea had turned to him and asked, "Where's my six-minute kiss?" Instead, his wife of 45 years--she had to remind him how long they'd been married--got a quick buss at the end of the session, one scripted into the schedule that Romer's aides had handed out. So tender. So sad. So stomach-churning.
You can kiss this man's credibility goodbye.
Read his lips.
Kiss and Tell
In the almost eight years since Westword published "The Rumor About Rumor," allegations of the governor's infidelity have made only minor blips on the radar screen. Back in June 1990, the story blew over within hours--literally--when tornadoes decimated Limon and Romer raced to the rescue. In 1994, during a gubernatorial campaign that made front-page fodder of Republican Bruce Benson's drunken-driving arrest and ugly divorce, Romer repeated his denials--and again escaped scrutiny.
After all this time, he must have been feeling safe. Safe enough, at least, to engage in some very public spit-swapping.
Early last Thursday morning, Insight magazine, an affiliate of the Democrat-bashing Washington Times, posted on the Web another story about Romer's relationship with Thornberry. In 1993 she'd left Colorado to work for the Clinton administration, first at the Department of the Interior and then, in March 1996, as director of the Democratic National Committee. But she'd always stayed in touch--close touch--with Romer, who was no stranger to D.C. In fact, according to Insight, they spent the night together in a Washington townhouse. And when Romer was appointed chair of the DNC in January 1997, he began spending even more time out of state--and within Thornberry's reach.
It is in his allegedly part-time role as head of the DNC that Romer has served as one of Bill Clinton's chief apologists. Clad in bomber jacket and that newly affected turtleneck, Romer has been on constant call to defend the president against his alleged sexual activities--with Paula Jones, with Monica Lewinsky, with anyone and anything. This was the hook that caught Insight: How could Romer talk about family values and integrity when he himself was involved with Thornberry--an involvement captured on videotape and in photographs?
As word of the Insight piece leaked out, Romer's advisors started spinning. They discouraged local TV stations from pursuing a story that, after all, had appeared in a conservative Moonie magazine and was based on tapes no doubt provided by that notorious right-wing conspiracy; the governor wasn't even going to dignify the allegations with a response, they said. That was enough to convince Channel 9--the station that had gone to court four years earlier to pry open Benson's divorce files--to stay silent; Channel 4, after working on a story all day, also decided not to go with it. (Although Romer still hadn't responded--that they knew of--Channels 2 and 7 both ran pieces Thursday night.) Even the Denver Post had decided the Insight allegations weren't particularly newsworthy--until Romer decided to make some news of his own: He offered the Post an "exclusive" interview that wound up sounding like a press release for Geritol.
"I needed an infusion of spirit and energy, and I found that in Thornberry," Romer told editor Dennis Britton via phone from D.C. "It was a professional relationship that grew into a supportive personal one." And a smoochy one--but Romer swore that sex wasn't involved. In a revelation worthy of Marshall Applewhite, Romer confided to Britton that he was "not a very sexual person."
Or a very secretive one. Mary Romer Ammons, who was in D.C. with her father, provided the Post with her own observations. His relationship with Thornberry "had been discussed, talked about, worked through, negotiated. My mother has not been deceived."
But it's hard to imagine that Bea Romer was pleased.
Nor were many of the reporters at that Friday press conference, who moped around like they, too, had been betrayed by a longtime lover. And not just once, either. They'd been cheated on eight years before, when they had bought Romer's denial--or at least the argument that private lives were nobody's business, and besides, writing about the subject of sex could get you in so much trouble. And they'd been fooled again just the day before, when they'd left work assured by the governor's office that Romer wasn't talking, only to find that both Romers had issued statements after the ten o'clock news. (The Rocky Mountain News, which had pursued the videotape angle, managed to retool its story before the paper went to bed, excuse the expression.)