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September 2, 2014

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Governor’s textual misconduct

Gibbons acknowledges ‘mistake,’ denies affair

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Cathleen Allison / Nevada Appeal

Gov. Jim Gibbons demonstrates how he text-messages with his thumbs in a meeting Wednesday with the Nevada press corps.

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Sun Topic

The governor looked surprisingly relaxed Wednesday in his black turtleneck and sports jacket, especially for a guy who says he gets two or three hours of sleep a night, who’s dealing with a major state economic crisis, who has filed for divorce and been accused by his wife of cheating, and is the regular subject of political obituaries.

In the latest chapter in Gov. Jim Gibbons’ eventful 18 months in office, state records released this week showed that Gibbons had been a text-messaging fiend with the alleged “other woman,” exchanging 867 text messages with her over six weeks last year — all from his state cell phone.

So he invited the Nevada press corps to his office to explain — more precisely, to explain why 867 texts between a man and a woman married to other people should not be seen as exactly what most folks probably think they are.

Not so quick, the governor cautioned. These weren’t high-tech love notes, he insisted. Quite the contrary. The governor said he’s thinking about the state’s business all the time, day and night — and when an idea pops into his mind, he just has to text someone to discuss it.

And that’s what the governor would have Nevadans believe happened here — that all those texts to Kathy Karrasch, who he maintains is simply a platonic friend, were about issues such as taxation and personnel management, as in how to set up an office.

“I text a lot of people,” he said. Oh, there might have been the occasional personal communique in there too, he acknowledged — “what’s happening with her kids, what the latest issues are with her dog.” But he’s just in love with the texting, it seems.

“You all do texts. It takes like point six seconds to respond to something,” Gibbons said, dismissing a question about whether all that texting — during last year’s legislative session — distracted him from governing the state.

“You must be quick on that thing,” a reporter said. “I mean, 170 messages” in a single day?

“You get used to typing with your thumbs instead of your fingers,” Gibbons replied. At this point, he flexed his thumbs on an imaginary cell phone to demonstrate his BlackBerry proficiency.

During one stretch between midnight and 2 a.m., he exchanged 91 messages with Karrasch, the estranged wife of a Reno physician.

There were chuckles.

But let’s cut to it. What was in these text messages, long ago sent to the digital limbo known as “deleted.”

The Sun’s Cy Ryan got right to the point. “Were these love notes?”

“No,” Gibbons answered.

Gibbons acknowledged he’d made a mistake by using his state cell phone for the 867 messages.

“It’s one of those things, when I look back and see there were six weeks of text messages, it wasn’t the brightest — it wasn’t something I should’ve done. It was a mistake.”

When he realized, he said, that the state plan did not cover text-messaging, he wrote the state two checks for a total of $130.05.

This news conference was for the print folks, and, coming just after the agreement between his attorneys and Dawn Gibbons’ to publicly cease fire, he explained he wasn’t going to talk about issues pertaining to the divorce.

The media would not be cowed, though, and asked again: What do you say in 867 messages?

It happened more than a year ago, Gibbons said, by way of explaining he couldn’t remember exactly.

But with the Legislature in session it was a stressful time for him, he said. So he’d text about the issues of the day, about state happenings.

When the governor texts others, he uses his personal cell phone, he said.

The way Karrasch came to be the only person Gibbons texted on his state cell phone, he explained, is that she started the communication by texting him on the state phone first.

When he realized the state was being charged for it, he immediately stopped using the state phone for those communications and paid the bill.

“You still text-message to this woman?”

“No.”

“Have you broken up with this woman or do you see her anymore?”

“I do not see her. I do not text.”

And here’s Cy Ryan again:

“How many times did you sleep with her?”

“None.”

“How could so many text messages not be a distraction?”

“I’m a person who sleeps very little. I probably get two or three hours of sleep a night. So I’m constantly sitting there, with my mind turning, thinking about issues, and will text people at 1, 2, 4 in the morning.”

“Can you name one policy she advised you on?”

“Taxation.”

“In what way?” Ryan prodded. “You said no new taxes.”

“That’s true, but there’s a number of things, heck, even personnel management things ... how to structure an office.”

And then another question: “Why do you put yourself into these situations, where you go out to breakfast with a woman, you text-message a lot.”

Gibbons seemed to become defensive. “I don’t know if anyone should tell you or me who your friends can or cannot be,” he said.

He said he doesn’t talk to Karrasch anymore, and his voice got deep. “Simply because of the stress, all the media,” he said. “It has put a tremendous burden on her.”

There were follow-up questions, and the governor’s press secretary tried to step in.

“Stop. Please,” he said to Gibbons. “We’re straying away.”

The governor, though, was defiant.

“You’ve got more questions?” he asked the media. “I’m not going to rush it.”

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