After reporters working for publications owned by right-wing plutocrats led a successful smear campaign against a de Blasio advisor with ties to Al Sharpton, the mayor unloaded on the chattering class today. Asked about the departure of Rachel Noerdlinger, an aide to First Lady Chirlane McCray, following incessant coverage of her son and ex-con boyfriend, de Blasio said:
I think the notion that, somehow in modern society, not just your own actions, but you know, your girlfriend or boyfriend, your own teenage child - somehow all of this is fair game in the public discourse. I think something’s gone wrong here that we need to really look at. It’s going to be very hard to get good people into public service if we continue on this path.
I think it's pretty obvious. We've seen this - we saw this in the 1950s, we've seen this throughout the history of this country. If someone wants to smear people, and use that for political purposes, there's a pretty easy playbook for doing it. It's repulsive, but it's become quite common. The idea is that for those of us who have a sense of mission, we're not going to let it stop us. So, character assassination happens every day in public life. What's sad is when it goes beyond the boundaries of the public servant, and starts to be something that could include anyone they ever met - any family member, anyone they're romantically involved with, their children.
De Blasio insisted the missteps made by Noerdlinger—namely, not disclosing on her background check that her boyfriend was cohabitating with her and not disclosing a tax lien on her house in New Jersey—were "far, far overblown." Noerdlinger's leave of absence immediately followed her teenage son's arrest for loitering in the lobby of a Washington Heights apartment building with friends in possession of a bottle of alcohol and marijuana, something only white teenagers are allowed to enjoy without life-altering consequences.
"I think it's perfectly fair to say if a public servant does something that people have concerns about, that's great - but again,when you start going into a child, you know, when you start going into a boyfriend - where are we going?" de Blasio asked the press. "Where are we going? Does everyone want - would you all like to have that discussion about yourselves? You're in the public eye. This is - something's wrong, guys. Something's really wrong here."
"A lot of really nasty stuff was done here," the mayor added. "It is clearly for a purpose. It's quite obvious: Why would so much attention be given to one person and her personal life?"
De Blasio's chastisement immediately inspired reporters to stop and ask themselves why the personal life of one mayoral advisor became the focus of so much investigative reporting.
A NYC mayor who put his family at center of campaign as never before just told press that it has run afoul of covering families.
— Michael Barbaro (@mikiebarb) November 17, 2014
The last question at the presser was on this very point: Reporters argue that because de Blasio appeared with his family in campaign commercials, etc., that he has no right to question negative coverage of the family of an appointee to his administration. "I ran for office," the mayor said. "I ran for office. That's a very, very different dynamic. Again, if you want no one to become public servants, keep doing what you're doing."
Here's video of the exchange; the Noerdlinger questions start at about the 38-minute mark:
For more, check out Runnin' Scared's roundup of the police union's P.R. offensive against Noerdlinger, who, as a Sharpton spokesperson, had called for a boycott of companies that contributed to the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.
It's perhaps worth noting that today's press conference was held to announce a $140 million plan to renovate a large, vacant warehouse at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in order to convert it to a manufacturing space. Using funds from the City, Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation, Brooklyn Borough President and City Council, Building 77 will create an estimated 3,000 "good-paying" jobs, according to the mayor's office.
The Mayor also announced the expansion of "the yard’s highly successful Employment Center, which recruits, screens and trains area residents for jobs created" at the Navy Yard. “We are jump-starting a new wave of manufacturing and job creation at the Navy Yard," de Blasio said. "It will mean more opportunity for people in this community to not only secure a job, but also get the skills and upward mobility they need to support a family." They should just make sure they don't have any connections to Al Sharpton before applying.