Rachel Noerdlinger, the Chief of Staff for NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray, has been the subject of unflattering media attention since last week, when DNAinfo reported that her boyfriend was imprisoned for manslaughter and also wrote some legitimately offensive crap on a blog in 2011. Hassaun McFarlan and Rachel Noerdlinger have been "romantically linked" since 2010, but Noerdlinger says she was unaware of Internet rants from McFarlan calling police "pigs" and declaring, in 2011, that "Trying to find the right black woman with a mean [oral sex] game is like trying to find a black woman with good credit."
McFarlan, who grew up in Harlem with a father who reportedly pushed him to be a drug dealer, admitted to shooting an 18-year-old in the St. Nicholas Houses in Harlem in 1993, when he was just 15. But he was arrested multiple times after that, and DNAinfo chronicled McFarlan's criminal record in great detail—according to court records he's also been arrested for drug trafficking, possession, and driving with a suspended license. His most recent arrest was last year, when he tried to evade a traffic stop in New Jersey.
In addition to serving as McCray's Chief of Staff, the Times reports that Noerdlinger, a former spokeswoman for the Rev. Al Sharpton, is also a highly valued advisor to the entire de Blasio administration. When asked about her boyfriend's past, the mayor said, "You don’t fire people because of something their boyfriend said. That’s ludicrous. I have absolute faith in her. We don’t care what someone’s boyfriend said. We care what the public servant is about, and she is very dedicated to the work of bringing police and community together."
Noerdlinger herself told the Post she was dismayed by McFarlan's Facebook and blog comments, declaring, "I disavow all of these comments 100 percent and find them reprehensible. As a woman who has spent my adult life promoting civil rights and women’s rights, Hassaun’s rhetoric does not speak to who I am and what I have fought for."
Sharpton, for his part, told the Wall Street Journal that the media coverage "smells to me like a witch hunt. Since when is a woman responsible for her boyfriend’s behavior 15 years ago or his comments? This is ridiculous to me." (This ridiculousness, by the way, is somewhat reminiscent of when de Blasio's transition spokeswoman Lis Smith was found out to be dating disgraced former governor Eliot Spitzer; Smith was fired/left voluntarily.)
Nevertheless, last night it looked as if the reports of McFarlan's conduct were having an impact—the NY Times reported that city investigators had "opened an inquiry" after it was alleged that she failed to disclose on a Department of Investigation background check that she was living with McFarlan.
However, this afternoon a source told the Wall Street Journal that "there is no open investigation, and no action is being taken against Rachel Noerdlinger." And NBC New York reports that de Blasio has announced "an investigation has found no criminal wrongdoing or intent to mislead on the part of" Noerdlinger.
De Blasio spokesman Phil Walzak told the Journal, "The administration knows of no action being taken against Rachel, but does know that she comes to work every day committed to serving the people of our city across the five boroughs on the critical issues that matter."
So who knows. And really, who cares? Perhaps DNAinfo loves this shady non-story so much because it's their shady non-story. Owned by a conservative gazillionaire from Nebraska, the publication thrives on "scoops" and "exclusives" like this to help promote its growing brand, and it's good at it—today's update, for instance, reminds the reader three times that the story of a publicist's boyfriend is a "DNAinfo exclusive." Why the other local news outlets felt the need to follow along is probably due to the irresistible allure of scandal, no matter how tangential.
But now that what a mayoral advisor's boyfriend did years ago is firmly a matter of public record, maybe the City Hall press corps can go back to investigating more vital stories, like the administration's attempt to over up de Blasio's groundhogicide, or the the mayor's hatred for The High Line (and America)?