NEW YORK—The weekend before the city’s primary, outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg unintentionally offered a gift to top mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio. In an interview released Saturday by New York Magazine, Bloomberg talked about his tenure as mayor and called de Blasio’s campaign “racist.”
The interviewer said, “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,” Bloomberg interjected.
“Racist?” the interviewer asked.
“Well, no, no, I mean he’s making an appeal using his family to gain support,” Bloomberg said. “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.” (Bloomberg’s office got New York Magazine to add the “Well, no, no,” after producing a recording of the conversation.)
De Blasio is white and his wife Chirlane McCray is African American. His wife and children have been prominent in his ads and on the campaign trail. His 16-year-old son Dante’s afro has acquired its own fame in the city.
The de Blasio family responded to Bloomberg’s comments by saying that they hadn’t been coerced into the campaign.
“Do I look like an inanimate object or a tool?” McCray asked. De Blasio’s daughter Chiara added, “Twenty 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.”
And de Blasio’s campaign recorded a radio ad that began airing on Monday.
“Mayor Bloomberg seems to think that showing up in a photo with your black wife is ‘racist,’” Junot Diaz, a novelist and activist in the city, said in the ad.
Campaign manager Bill Hyers sent an email to supporters: “In case you needed a reminder about why we’re doing this, read Mayor Bloomberg’s interview in New York Magazine today.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who has avoided commenting on the race, blasted Bloomberg and talked about what a great family the de Blasios are.
Bloomberg has not formally endorsed anyone, but said he was pleased that the New York Times endorsed former head of the Metropolitan Transit Authority Joe Lhota, a Republican, and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a Democrat.
Polls have shown de Blasio is on the verge of winning 40 percent of the vote in the primary which would allow him to avoid a runoff. Bloomberg’s comments could give him just the bump he needs.
De Blasio supports churches renting from public schools, a small issue to most in the city but important to the city’s churches, which often struggle to find places to meet. But he is the furthest to the left of any of the Democratic candidates, and holds extreme positions on abortion, as does his closest rival, Quinn.
The primary for both parties takes place tomorrow.