At a rally in Brooklyn's Clinton Hill neighborhood, Bill de Blasio responded to a recent interview with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the man he hopes to succeed in City Hall, calling his charges of racism "very unfortunate and inappropriate."
Just days before Tuesday's New York City primary, Bloomberg told New York Magazine, in an interview published Saturday morning, that de Blasio has run a "class-warfare and racist" campaign because of the way in which he has used "his family to gain support," the outgoing three-term mayor said.
De Blasio, the late-breaking frontrunner in this year's crowded primary contest, stood alongside his wife, longtime activist Chirlane McCray, who is black, and his daughter, 18-year-old Chiara, at a packed get-out-the-vote rally Saturday afternoon, where he denounced Bloomberg's comments.
"I think we have run a campaign about the ideas, about the issues, about how to move this city forward," said de Blasio, who led a recent Quinnipiac poll with 43 percent of the Democratic vote. "I'm very proud of that. I'm exceedingly proud of my family, and as you'll know meeting every member of my family, they are each and every one strong and independent and make their own decisions."
"We all have proceeded as a family together," he said. "It's been an extraordinarily positive experience."
De Blasio, calling the interview "very unfortunate and inappropriate," said he hoped Bloomberg would "reconsider what he said."
After the rally, where de Blasio appeared with Ken Thompson, a candidate for Brooklyn District attorney, his daughter Chiara told reporters she and her mother and brother, 16-year-old Dante, participated in the campaign on their own terms. "My mom, my brother, and I are all capable of making our own decisions," she said. "Twenty years ago, my dad did not know he was running for mayor and did not seek to marry a black woman to put on display."
The de Blasios have appeared on the campaign trail with the candidate often, and Dante filmed an effective, much-talked-about direct-to-camera television ad earlier this year. When a reporter asked whether de Blasio has used his family as "a prop" during the campaign, McCray responded sharply. "Do I look like an inanimate object? I walk, I talk, I make my own decisions," she said.
The rhetoric from de Blasio supporters at the rally was more heated. Activist Bertha Lewis, the former head of the now-disbanded ACORN and a longtime de Blasio supporter, introduced the candidate at the rally.
"Big Mikey says that Bill de Blasio is a racist," she said, inciting boos from the crowd. "I mean, what? Seriously?"
"If Bill de Blasio is a racist, so am I. So are we all," Lewis said. "Big Mike, your days are numbered. Come Tuesday, maybe you will finally get the message."
De Blasio himself lamented that, just hours away from Tuesday's primary, the Bloomberg interview — deemed already by the political class as an unexpected gift to his campaign — was distracting from "the issues."
"It's the silly season, my friends," he said.
Ruby Cramer is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Ruby Cramer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.