At a 'Gossip Girl' press conference (and mini-protest by Penn Badgley), Bloomberg says 'Jihad' is 'a little bit of an embarrassment'
2:36 pm Jan. 26, 20121
Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended his police commissioner and a top police spokesman today at an event celebrating the 100th episode of "Gossip Girl," and the TV and film industry's contributions to the city's economy.
Police commissioner Ray Kelly and his deputy, Paul Browne, have come under fire for participating in a documentary with a strongly anti-Islamic slant called The Third Jihad. Browne's initial statements about the film, and Kelly's involvement in it, turned out to be inaccurate.
The mayor stood by Kelly and Browne.
"Commissioner Kelly should not step down," said the mayor, after posing for photos with "Gossip Girl" actors Blake Lively and Penn Badgley, who appeared at the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations and wore a "We are the 99%" T-shirt today. "I think it's fair say to say that it was a little bit of an embarrassment that this film was made ... He was interviewed a long time ago, and he didn’t understand it wasn’t going to be a part of this. It was sort of taken out of context."
"Ray said yesterday he regrets that this film was made, not made, was shown ... he thought it was inappropriate," continued the mayor. "He took steps as soon as he found out about it to stop it. And he apologized to anybody who felt that they were insulted or whatever the word would be. I don’t think people in this city think that this police department is anything but what it should be. This is the greatest police department. It is open to everyone. And I have 100-percent confidence in Ray Kelly."
When asked how this would affect the police commissioner's credibility, the mayor said that Kelly has "got to work at establishing, or reestablishing or reinforcing the credibility that he does have. You know, Ray Kelly probably visits more mosques than an awful lot of people who believe in the faith that’s practiced there."
Nor does Bloomberg think the 1,500 or so police officers who watched the anti-Islamic film need any retraining.
"I think any retraining is probably being done by the press right now," he said.
Bloomberg also defended Paul Browne, Kelly's spokesman, who has had rocky relations with the press.
"The interview that he did was taken so long ago I think in good faith nobody even remembered it, they probably didn’t pay any attention to it," said Bloomberg, adding, "As we all know, Paul Browne is as honest and as competent as anybody in the business of representing the city and giving out information. I'm sure he acted in good faith. And I regret that we didn’t have the whole story right away."
In final Kelly family news, Bloomberg responded to a question about allegations that Ray Kelly's son, "Good Day New York" anchor Greg Kelly, raped a young woman in October. The case is now being investigated by the Manhattan district attorney. According to news reports, the young woman's boyfriend approached the police commissioner at a public event and told him his son had ruined his girlfriend's life. Kelly told him to put it in a letter.
By Bloomberg's lights, Ray Kelly probably didn't understand what the young man said anyway.
"I suspect that what happens to Ray Kelly happens to me all the time," said the mayor. "People are always, while you’re walking through a crowd, saying things," he said. "When you get to be my age, you can’t hear most of them. So half the time, I don’t know what they’re talking about. And the answer is, if you have a complaint, to write it. And we take every complaint seriously."
Unrelated, the mayor does not support making the Chinese Lunar New Year an official school holiday ("You cannot have a day off from school for every single holiday, or we’d have no school"), and said a pension reform he previously announced with City Comptroller John Liu is clearly in trouble ("How we take that to fruition is proving to be problematic, but we’re still working on it").
The mayor made his remarks at Silvercup Studios in Long Island City, where the CW show "Gossip Girl" is filmed.
According to the mayor, last year New York City hosted 140 television shows and 188 films, and the TV and movie industry generated $5 billion in local economic activity.
"Ten years ago, only nine primetime series were based in New York," said the mayor, who gave much of the credit to the state's 30 percent tax break for filming in the state. "This season that number is up to 23, the most ever."