Yesterday, NY Magazine unleashed a massive interview with Mayor Bloomberg in which he accused the Bill de Blasio campaign of racism, among other things (like dismissing poor people with air conditioning!). de Blasio responded to those criticisms while out campaigning, "All I can say is, I hope the mayor will reconsider what he said. I hope he'll realize that it was inappropriate, and I think the people of this city are ready for us to move forward together."
de Blasio added, “I’m very proud of my family. I’m very proud of each and every member of my family and the way that they have handled themselves in a very difficult campaign.”
His wife, Chirlane McCray, later tweeted, "@MikeBloomberg, enough of the patriarchal thinking. I am not property or a tool to be used or controlled. Stop the sexism!" His daughter, Chiara, was just as blunt: "Everything I do for the campaign is my decision. And I think that, or at least I suspect...20 years ago my dad did not know he was running for mayor and he did not seek to marry a black woman to put her on display."
There was a wide range of reactions on Twitter after the interview was released as well, with many criticizing the mayor for his lack of self-reflectiveness. Late in the day, NY Magazine updated the story to "amend the remarks to add an interjection that was inaudible in our audiotape of the interview" at the request of the mayor's office.
Then there’s Bill de Blasio, who’s become the Democratic front-runner. He has in some ways been running a class-warfare campaign—
Class-warfare and racist.
Well, no, no, I mean* he’s making an appeal using his family to gain support. I think it’s pretty obvious to anyone watching what he’s been doing. I do not think he himself is racist. It’s comparable to me pointing out I’m Jewish in attracting the Jewish vote. You tailor messages to your audiences and address issues you think your audience cares about.
But his whole campaign is that there are two different cities here. And I’ve never liked that kind of division. The way to help those who are less fortunate is, number one, to attract more very fortunate people. They are the ones that pay the bills. The people that would get very badly hurt here if you drive out the very wealthy are the people he professes to try to help. Tearing people apart with this “two cities” thing doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s a destructive strategy for those you want to help the most. He’s a very populist, very left-wing guy, but this city is not two groups, and if to some extent it is, it’s one group paying for services for the other.
It’s a shame, because I’ve always thought he was a very smart guy.
NY Magazine added, "In our view the added words do not alter the meaning of the exchange as reflected in the published interview."
Buzzfeed took some time to point out all the ways Bloomberg has indeed played up his Jewishness to attract Jewish voters, like when he sent out “an eight-page mini-magazine with photos of ‘Mike the Mensch’ wearing a yarmulke" in 2005, or when he sent mail to Jewish voters also directly pointing out the fact he was Jewish in 2001.
At the end of the day, the interview has certainly helped de Blasio more than hurt: it's eclipsed other real issues with de Blasio's record, obscuring some much more meaningful investigations. And it's fallen right in line with his campaign strategy, positioning himself as the anti-Bloomberg. "I think that Mayor Bloomberg may have been trying to validate the polls that have de Blasio way ahead, because in a Democratic primary, for him to make this kind of attack, can only be helpful to Bill de Blasio," said the Reverend Al Sharpton.
As if to prove him right, de Blasio's campaign sent out an email blast yesterday afternoon referring to the controversy: "In case you needed a reminder about why we're doing this, read Mayor Bloomberg's interview in New York Magazine today. Man, he's out of touch. It's no wonder that someone who thinks we shouldn't even talk about inequality is using his golfing buddies as a bellwether for how the rest of us are doing."