The de Blasios respond to Bloomberg’s ‘racist’ comment about their family campaign

The de Blasios, responding to Mayor Bloomberg. (Reid Pillifant)
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At a campaign stop in central Brooklyn on Saturday afternoon, Bill de Blasio said it was "very, very unfortunate and inappropriate" for Mayor Michael Bloomberg to refer to his campaign as "class-warfare and racist" in an interview with New York magazine.

"I just have to say I think we have run a campaign about the ideas, about the issues, about how to move this city forward, and I'm very proud of that," said de Blasio, who was joined by his wife, Chirlane McCray, and daughter, Chiara, in a crowded campaign office on Fulton Street.

Bloomberg criticized de Blasio's campaign for its focus on his bi-racial family, which has included campaign ads featuring de Blasio's son, Dante, and frequent appearances by his wife and daughter on the campaign trail.

"I mean he’s making an appeal using his family to gain support," Bloomberg said, in an extensive interview with Chris Smith, which was published online this morning. "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."

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"I'm exceedingly proud of my family," de Blasio said this afternoon. "As you'll know, meeting every member of my family, they are each and every one strong and independent and make their own decisions. And we all have proceeded as a family together. And it's been an extraordinarily positive experience for us.

"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."

Bloomberg has long been dismissive of de Blasio and the candidate's contention that New York is "a tale of two cities," but the mayor had mostly left the direct criticism to a top deputy, Howard Wolfson.

Bloomberg's own comments, which included some supportive words about both Christine Quinn and Joe Lhota, seem to solidify the idea that de Blasio is the mayor's chief antagonist in the race, and also seemed likely to dominate the last few days before Tuesday's primary.

"In case we had any doubt about the need to project new values, and to work for a new city, we were vividly reminded of them by the interview that came out this morning," said Bob Master, the political director of the Communication Workers of America, to cheers from the crowd, as he introduced de Blasio this afternoon. "We were vividly reminded that the vision that has governed this city for the last 12 years is destructive to the unity and the uplift that we're seeking."

"Big Mike says Bill de Blasio is a racist," said Bertha Lewis, the former head of ACORN. "I mean, what? Because he's a father, a husband and a man who is proud of his family of color. Well I am too! And if de Blasio is a racist, so am I! So are we all! Big Mike, your days are numbered. Come Tuesday, maybe you'll finally get the message: no fourth term for you."

After de Blasio spoke, his family joined him on the sidewalk to offer their own responses to the criticism.

"Do I look like an inanimate object?" said McCray. "I walk, I talk I make my own decisions."

"Everything I do for the campaign is my decision," said Chiara, "and I think that—or at least I suspect, I wasn't born 20 years ago—that 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."

"Very accurate," said de Blasio, with a laugh.

After one more question, de Blasio left for another event, and a handful of television cameramen, who had missed the sidewalk remarks, gathered around Chiara and asked her to repeat what she had just said.

"I just can't repeat it without a press staff," said Chiara, who eventually got the approval, and repeated her remarks for the assembled cameras.