The growing field of Republican mayoral candidates gathered for a forum at the Metropolitan Republican Club last night to make their cases for why they were the best candidate to be offered like a sacrificial lamb this election season. While there was plenty of ammo fired at Bill de Blasio, candidates also took some shots at Bo Dietl, who made a strange comment that many interpreted as racist.

Newcomer Nicole Malliotakis, the Staten Island assembly member who most recently made headlines for suing the city over its attempt to destroy NYCID data, made her case that as a child of immigrants who could speak Spanish she'd be able to peel off Hispanic voters. She also attacked de Blasio for his support of sanctuary city policies and his comments that she's only interested in right-wing rhetoric, asking the assembled Republicans "When is following the law being right-wing? That's what I don't know," according to the Observer.

Former Jet Michael Faulkner and real estate mogul Paul Massey each took turns spinning the Big Promises Wheel, according to the Post, with Faulkner promising to house the homeless in Gracie Mansion if he was elected and Massey suggesting the city build a bridge, tunnel and subway from Manhattan to Long Island City (which is currently served by the 7 train, the Queens-Midtown Tunnel and the Queensboro Bridge).

Massey also called de Blasio "an Olympic level failure" according to the paper, though Faulkner pointed out that hadn't stopped him from donating the maximum amount to de Blasio's 2013 campaign.

Faulkner also said "We should not speak ill of Republicans; can we speak ill of Bo?" according to the Staten Island Advance, a shot at Dietl's attempt to enter the primary against de Blasio as a Democrat. That led to the most attention-grabbing moment of the night, as the retired police officer/former Arby's pitchman suggested he couldn't run as a Democrat because the judge hearing his case over the ballot issue looked too much like NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray.

"First of all, the judge looked like Chirlane de Blasio. And as soon as I saw her, as soon as I saw her I knew I had a problem," Dietl told a laughing audience at the forum, according to the News. Dietl later tried to clarify the remark by telling reporters that the judge looked like McCray's sister and that what he really meant was that the judge was "a Democratic appointee also and then she knocked me off the line, that's what I meant." Both woman are black.

Dietl took a new tack this morning, calling people critical of his comments the real racists:

Coincidentally, Dietl was on The Brian Lehrer show this morning, where he tried to clarify the remark further. Dietl told Lehrer that remark was supposed to be similar to a situation wherein if he "had a judge who looked like my ex-wife at divorce court, I'd say 'Uh oh, I've got a problem.'"

Pressed to explain the similarities between the judge and McCray, Dietl told the host "she looked like her sister, like she could have been part of her family" but declined to go over any physical characteristics the two might share. Dietl also brought up what he said was a 40 year friendship with the Reverend Al Sharpton, and that he'd "picked up dead black kids" (when he was a police officer, presumably) as proof that he can't be racist.

Responding to Paul Massey's criticism of his remarks about McCray, Dietl suggested that Massey "maybe shouldn't get locked up for drunk driving." (Massey caught a misdemeanor DWI charge in 2010, but has not been otherwise charged with impaired driving crimes).

On the policy front, Dietl made the case that Rikers Island should be reformed instead of closed, suggesting that the city has to study the problems that exist on the prison island but that all in all "Rikers island is a good place." He also suggested that since he knew Ben Carson from their Fox News days, he'd be able to get large amounts of federal housing money to go towards affordable housing. President Trump's budget calls for a $6 billion cut in funding towards the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Dietl also reversed his position on transgender individuals using bathrooms that match up with their gender, telling Lehrer that bathroom usage (as well as abortion and gay marriage) were none of the government's business. At a forum for the Reform Party last month, Dietl told the crowd "If it ain't cut off, you don’t go in," in regards to transgender people's access to bathrooms.