New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg dodged questions Monday about whether comments from former Mayor Rudy Giuliani made at weekend campaign events on his behalf were intended to ignite racial controversy.
Giuliani warned Sunday that crime rates could skyrocket if Bloomberg doesn’t win re-election—Bloomberg’s main opponent is the African-American Democratic nominee and city controller Bill Thompson.
“I worried daily that the city might be turned back to the way it was before 1993 — and you know exactly what I’m talking about,” the New York Post said Giuliani told a crowd of ultra-Orthodox Jews at an event sponsored by Brooklyn’s Bourough Park Jewish Community Council. “This community remembers the fears, the worries and the crimes — and the great fear of going out at night and walking the streets.”
During the year referenced by Giuliani, New York had it’s first and only black mayor—David Dinkins–was in office. Dinkins was mayor from 1990 to 1993. City Councilman Bill de Blasio, a Democrat running for Public Advocate, said he was “appalled” by the Giuliani comments.
“Giuliani’s comments verge on race-baiting,” he said per the New York Times. “Bloomberg should disavow those comments and show that he doesn’t buy into that kind of rhetoric.”
Bloomberg himself hinted that New York could go the way of Detroit.
“We all know that cities have gone through great boom times and then turned around and collapsed. Take a look at Detroit,” he said. “I think that was really because of economics as opposed to some other things. But Detroit went from a city where it was a great city with lots of good-paying jobs to a city that’s basically holding on for dear life.”
The Village Voice noted that Detroit has had black mayors since 1974 and the New York Observer quoted Giuliani biographer and historian Fred Siegel as saying the Bloomberg comments were “indefensible.”
“If this isn’t a rude, racial invocation, then you don’t mention Detroit,” the paper quoted Siegel saying.
Bronx Democratic Chairman Carl Heastie, an African-American, also called on Bloomberg to “denounce” Giuliani’s comments which he called “code words” to scare Jewish voters.
“His comments yesterday, using code words to try and strike fear in the hearts and minds of persons in the Jewish faith should be condemned,” Heastie said. “I call upon Mike Bloomberg to denounce Giuliani’s statement, and to apologize to his veiled reference to Detroit as well.”
On Monday Bloomberg sidestepped questions about Giuliani’s comments during an afternoon police union endorsement event.
“We’ve successfully resisted attempts to divide this city for the past eight years,” Bloomberg said. “I’ve worked well with virtually everyone. I don’t point fingers, I try to lower the volume and the temperature, and not raise it. I’m not going to start trying to raise it now.”
The New York Observer said Bloomberg similarly dodged a second question about Giuliani’s comments: “Look, I’ve always tried to bring people together, and not to divide them. I can only speak for myself. Our campaign really is built around the belief that we can bring all New Yorkers together for a common vision.”
True/Slant‘s Michael Roston noted that Bloomberg has had a large lead in the mayoral race in most polls, and said he sees joint appearances of Giuliani and Bloomberg as something else: “Instead of finishing off this race with dignity, the 2009 mayoral contest in New York City is being transformed into a proxy for Albany 2010,” when Giuliani is expected to campaign to be New York governor.