A San Francisco Chronicle reporter and Verde Class of 2008 alumnus who broke the French Laundry story about Gov. Gavin Newsom, told a classroom of Palo Alto High School journalism students that he had no regrets about publishing the story.

“As a reporter covering the government, accountability is the number one function we can play and I think that’s what this was plain and simple,” said journalist Alexei Koseff during a Zoom conversation with the Verde staff on Friday, recounting his role in a story that helped fuel the recent recall election. “I can certainly see why people are upset about what the story spiraled into, but I can’t take responsibility for that or feel guilty.”

In November 2020, Koseff wrote a story for the San Francisco Chronicle covering Newsom’s attendance at a dinner party at the French Laundry, a restaurant in Napa County, that violated COVID-19 policies at the time. After publishing the story, Koseff posted it to Twitter where it quickly captured the public’s attention, garnering over 6,000 retweets.


“As a reporter covering the government, accountability is the number one function we can play and I think that’s what this was plain and simple. I can certainly see why people are upset about what the story spiraled into, but I can’t take responsibility for that or feel guilty.”

— Alexei Kosseff, San Francisco Chronicle reporter


Among the other stories published about politicians violating COVID-19 guidelines, Koseff said he believes his story had a lasting impact because of people’s preexisting discontent with Newsom.

“It [the French Laundry story] crystallized the anger that a lot of people already felt [toward Newsom],” Koseff said. “But the anger was just channeled through the French Laundry story.”

Although Newsom won the recall election earlier this week and continues to serve as California’s governor, Koseff said he believes the story will remain relevant for years to come.

“It [the French Laundry story] struck a chord with people in that it wasn’t just about behavior with him [Newsom],” Koseff said. “It seemed to reveal some deeper truth about who he was. I think it will be in stories about him for the rest of his career.”