NEW YORK—Outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg finally broke his silence on the campaign to succeed him, saying in an interview published Saturday that he believes Democratic mayoral frontrunner Bill de Blasio has run a “racist” campaign based on “class warfare.”
In an interview with New York Magazine published just days before the Sept. 10 mayoral primary, Bloomberg tore into de Blasio, the city’s public advocate, accusing him of playing up his multiracial family to win support.
“I mean he’s making an appeal using his family to gain support. I think it’s pretty obvious to anyone watching what he’s been doing,” Bloomberg said. “I do not think he himself is racist. It’s comparable to me pointing out that I am Jewish in attracting the Jewish vote. You tailor messages to your audiences and address issues you think your audience cares about.”
De Blasio, an Italian American, campaigns almost daily with his wife, Chirlane McCray, who is black. Their kids—Chiara, 18, and Dante, 15—have been equally prominent players in his campaign. Last month, Dante de Blasio was featured in two television ads highlighting his father’s opposition to the city’s controversial “stop and frisk” measure that allows police officers to randomly search people.
At a campaign stop on Saturday, de Blasio rejected Bloomberg’s comments.
“It’s obviously inappropriate, and I am surprised to hear him say it,” de Blasio said, according to the New York Daily News . “I think people feel something good about this family so I don’t understand what the mayor is saying.”
His rivals—former Comptroller Bill Thompson and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn—also defended de Blasio and his family, both calling the mayor’s comments inappropriate.
“I don’t think the mayor should make these comments,” Quinn said Saturday.
In the interview, Bloomberg also trashed de Blasio’s argument that New York has become a “tale of two cities” under his leadership at City Hall. In what has been a centerpiece of his campaign, de Blasio has regularly accused the outgoing mayor and his allies of focusing too much on a “chosen few” at the cost to city’s middle class and the poor.
But Bloomberg dismissed de Blasio’s critique, calling it a “destructive strategy” that not only could tear the city apart but the hurt the city’s neediest residents even more.
“His whole campaign is that there are two different cities here. And I’ve never liked that kind of division. The way to help those who are less fortunate is, number one, to attract more very fortunate people. They are the ones that pay the bills. The people that would get very badly hurt here if you drive out the very wealthy are the people he professes to try to help,” Bloomberg argued. “Tearing people apart with this ‘two cities’ thing doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s a destructive strategy for those you want to help the most. He’s a very populist, very left-wing guy, but this city is not two groups, and if to some extent it is, it’s one group paying for services for the other. It’s a shame, because I’ve always thought he was a very smart guy.”
The interview marked Bloomberg’s first significant comments on the mayoral race—a subject on which he has largely remained silent. But in recent weeks, there have been hints that the mayor has been displeased by the anti-Bloomberg rhetoric that has fueled the race.
Howard Wolfson, a deputy mayor who is one of Bloomberg’s top political advisers, had publicly criticized de Blasio in recent weeks—comments that the de Blasio campaign had linked to Bloomberg.
Bloomberg’s comments come as public polls show de Blasio within striking range of the 40 percent threshold he needs to avoid a Democratic run-off election. His anti-Bloomberg rhetoric has boosted him into a major lead over rivals including Quinn—who, until recently, had led the polls and was viewed as Bloomberg’s heir apparent.
Bloomberg has not formally endorsed Quinn, but in the interview, he defended her candidacy.
“Whether you are in favor of Chris Quinn becoming mayor or not, I will tell you this: She did a very good job for seven-and-a-half years of keeping legislation that never should have made it to the floor, that would have been damaging to the city, from ever getting there,” Bloomberg said. “And she deserves a lot of the credit for what's gone on in the city in the last seven and a half years.”