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John Baer: It's the Guv's behavior that fuels the rumor mill

ED, THIS IS all you. Whatever anger, distraction or embarrassment long-rampant speculation about an affair with your beauty-queen employee causes you, your marriage, focus on work or even life after leaving office, it's self-inflicted.

ED, THIS IS all you.

Whatever anger, distraction or embarrassment long-rampant speculation about an affair with your beauty-queen employee causes you, your marriage, focus on work or even life after leaving office, it's self-inflicted.

This is not the act of some political enemy. This is not a gotcha moment, despite your comments to Harrisburg's Patriot-News that you've "had it with the media."

No male in high-profile public office, especially one with a history of seen-in-public "friendships" with attractive women, can expect to be seen repeatedly in public with an attractive woman and not fuel eyebrow-raising rumors.

And anyone with a modicum of media savvy understands that, right or wrong, fair or not, the longer that such rumors simmer, the better the odds that they will get reported.

You understand, too.

So the Philadelphia magazine piece, "The Governor, the Blonde and the Rumor Mill," that hit newsstands last Friday - and dozens of news stories across the state about it - is because of you.

Heck, "the Blonde," 40-year-old former Miss Pennsylvania, Mrs. Pennsylvania and, more recently, Mrs. American Dream 2007, Kirstin Snow, chief of your Commonwealth Media Services, is surprised it took so long for rumors to rise.

No wonder. For a year, your 66-year-old married self and twice-divorced Snow have been spotted in restaurants, especially Harrisburg's Bella Mundo (described on its Web site as "a warm and intimate bistro where you can retreat after work"), at Snow's son's soccer games in suburban Harrisburg and on Snow's pontoon boat (think oversize raft with a motor and canvas top) on the Susquehanna River.

You introduced her at your $5,000-a-head Philly fundraiser in March, and she was famously photographed with you by this newspaper at Famous Deli on primary Election Day.

That photo brought complaints that two others were at the table but not in the shot. But it's clear, seated beside Snow, you're talking with someone across from you. And, hey, who brought Snow to Famous on a day when pols and media pack the place for lunch?

Your excuse? She was "managing" your TV appearances. Isn't that a press secretary's job?

And what about the photo with the mag piece? You're suited, seated and smiling with Snow resting her arms on your shoulder. Looks like a formal family portrait or a pol's holiday card. Nice judgment. And I know it was shot last year while the mag was shooting you for its "power" issue. But you posed for it. And, what? Never considered it could see the light of day?

Both the Guv and Snow, who goes by Dr. Snow, deny an affair.

(Her degree, she explains in an e-mail exchange, is a DBA, a doctorate in business administration, through "distance learning" from Southwest University, in Kenner, La., which, according to its Web site, no longer offers such a degree. She also has a vanity license plate: DRSNOW.)

Rendell calls all this personal, "between me and my family," calls Snow a good friend, says their affair denials are "the truth," and adds, "Don't ask me again."

Point is, no one would have asked in the first place were it not for Ed's penchant for parading around with attractive blondes who are not his wife.

In just his time as governor, there was lobbyist Holly Kinser, ex-wife of indicted former House Speaker Bill DeWeese; Leslie McCombs, former Pittsburgh TV anchor turned lobbyist; and now Kirstin Snow.

All three "friendships" got media attention, some similarly handled. A 2007 Daily News column, for example, about the Guv and McCombs, who at the time was in apparent violation of state lobbying law, carried the headline "Guv, the blonde & lobbying law." It included a photo of Ed sitting next to McCombs at a Pirates game.

Then there are the things that Ed said to the mag.

He said he brings Snow to fundraisers to add "pizzazz" - in EdWorld, a compliment; in the real world, an insult to professional women and akin to calling Snow eye candy.

He said that rumors about him are unfair to attractive women, inexplicably adding, "I should go out and find an unattractive woman to have an affair with." What's that supposed to mean? New hope for unattractive women?

His comment that he gets "hit on by women all the time" I'll let stand, except to note that the last time I heard talk like that was in a locker room in high school.

This is not Bill Clinton with a 21-year-old intern, or Eliot Spitzer with a high-priced call girl, or Mark Sanford using state resources to "hike the Appalachian Trail."

No one I'm aware of questions Snow's job performance. No one alleges misuse of state funds. But no one who knows Rendell is the least bit surprised by this latest "friendship" or rumors attending it.

And, Ed, you know why.

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