Sometimes, Kim Catullo can barely look
"I’ve actually stopped reading the papers, to be quite honest with you," said Kim Catullo, Christine Quinn’s wife, on Sunday afternoon in the campaign’s Vesey Street headquarters overlooking St. Paul's cemetery. "It’s just tough."
Catullo is well aware that her wife hasn’t had the easiest time of it lately. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio seems to be the candidate of the moment, winning the adoration of Katrina vanden Heuvel and some positive New York Times coverage without yet attracting the level of scrutiny and criticism that has attended Quinn's candidacy since the outset.
The article that really offends Catullo isn't a particularly recent one: It's that Times story about Quinn’s temper, which contained memorable sentences like, "She has threatened, repeatedly, to slice off the private parts of those who cross her."
“You know, I have to tell you, I think that if she were a man, it would never have been written,” said Catullo. “So I do think there was a bit of sexism in there. And by the way, I’ve been at places with her where women came up around that story and were really annoyed by it and really offended.”
And then, during last week’s mayoral debate, the first broadcast live on network TV, de Blasio and Weiner joined forces to attack Quinn, after which she delivered a closing statement that one Wall Street Journal reporter said looked like it had been rehearsed "50 times in the mirror."
Catullo watched the debate in person.
“I think she did great,” she told me. “I really do. I think that she stayed above the fray and did what she had to do. She was attacked personally and it’s tough to watch that, but she stayed calm and got her message through.”
People describe Catullo as “nice” and “shy,” someone who doesn't normally relish the limelight. But Sunday was her coming out day—a multi-hour onslaught of reporters designed to introduce her to the media.
Mine was her fifth interview of the day, and on my way out, I saw the Wall Street Journal’s Josh Dawsey sitting in the middle of the reception area cluttered with campaign literature, awaiting his turn.
“I always knew I’d do it,” said Catullo, of her entry into the public realm. “It was just a question of when, and I always kept trying to push it off and push it off."
Catullo has neatly coiffed shoulder-length hair and soft brown eyes. She was wearing a tan jacket and black platform sandals, with teal enamel that she refers to as “the Quinn nail polish.”
A 46-year-old successful corporate litigator who sometimes defends medical companies in product liability suits, Catullo keeps a book called Quiet: The Power of Introverts on her nighttable. She says it's a book about “how everyone tends to focus on the extroverts. But introverts have actually kind of changed the world.”
Catullo is fully versed in Quinn campaign rhetoric, and in the relative importance of the job Quinn beat de Blasio to get eight years ago (Council speaker) compared with the less-powerful position de Blasio eventually won.
She stressed, perhaps a little more energetically than Quinn has, the historic nature of the candidacy.
“I think it is a very historic moment in time if a woman and a lesbian becomes the mayor of New York City," said Catullo. "I just think that’s something that can’t be put to the side for an otherwise extremely qualified person.”
But Catullo can deal with so much political drama ("It's just too hard right now. ... It is very hard, actually"). And so when she reads the news, she reads about what's going on elsewhere in the world.
"What’s going on in Russia, I mean that’s just crazy, you know, the anti-gay stuff," said Catullo. "And it’s just, really, it seems like we’re going backwards there."
Catullo thinks "yes," the U.S. should boycott the winter Olympics there, and she would "absolutely not" attend herself.
"I sort of have a vague recollection of when Carter boycotted, where was that?" she said.
(The United States boycotted the 1980 Olympics in Moscow to protest the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan.)
"You guys should look back at that," she told me and Mike Morey, a campaign press secretary who was monitoring the interviews. "I mean I was a kid, but ... that was a big deal."