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December 13, 2018

E-mails show de Blasio obsessed with his national image since first week on the job

September 28, 2018
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio delivers a speech at Stuyvesant High School on April 3. (James Keivom / New York Daily News)

Mayor de Blasio hadn’t even been on the job for a week before he started planning his first trips out of town.

In a January 6, 2014 email, six days after being sworn in on New Year’s Day, he forwarded his advisers an invite to speak at a Democratic party event in Ohio, saying it intrigued him — even as he insisted “I’m generally going to be VERY modest, local and travel-adverse this year.”




“But Ohio is the center of the political universe and I love it there. And from time to time, I do want to project the progressive message nationally to reinforce my fellow progressives,” he wrote.

It was a prescient look into the future. More than 14,000 pages of emails finally released by the administration Thursday — during a blockbuster hearing on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh — show the mayor was obsessed with his role on the national stage and how he was perceived in the media.

Not surprisingly, his outside advisers didn’t think going to Ohio immediately after becoming mayor was a good idea.

“ohio – gotta think about that one…” consultant John Del Cecato wrote. “yes, very important state… but i worry a bit about the optics.”

Del Cecato is one de Blasio’s so-called “Agents of the City” — outside consultants whose conversations with City Hall de Blasio has argued should not be subject to Freedom of Information Law requests. He fought releasing the records in court, only to be ordered to turn them over by a judge.

The Ohio trip suggestion wasn’t the only time Hizzoner’s aides thought he ought to be less focused on national events.

On Nov. 13, 2014 — a day after he overslept and was late to a memorial for plane crash victims in Queens — de Blasio griped to his aides about how “disappointed” he was in a segment he’d done with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes because it did not offer him a chance to “discuss our topic meaningfully.” Aide Rebecca Katz responded to suggest to suggest he do some other national shows, which he deemed a great idea.

But after removing de Blasio from the email chain, his City Hall adviser Peter Ragone ripped the idea — and noted the mayor’s own hypocrisy in backing Gov. Cuomo and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul for reelection while espousing a progressive gospel.

“BDB campaigned for a conservative, gun-toting dem in Hochul and not Teachout or Wu. He campaigned for Cuomo – charter loving, tax cutting Dem. The Buffalo race example is being ridiculed by the pol press. We’re not being intellectually honest here folks and hypocrisy will be messy in any setting,” Ragone wrote.

The blistering email also noted local news had been overshadowed by the mayor’s own self-inflicted wounds the day before.

“And just to be clear, we had a milestone event yesterday that is thousands of more times important to us that was blown out of the water by sleeping late and commenting on Al Frankin’s race,” he wrote, noting it feuled negative stories. “Yesterday was literally one of the worst days from a media standpoint of the administration.”

Just a day later, de Blasio again checked in on his “post-election national effort,” saying it had “stalled.” Ragone outlined upcoming appearance, but Hizzoner griped he was getting “no traction with the Sunday shows.”

And a day after that, he fumed that he couldn’t land an op-ed in the New York Times.

“I’m not treated with the respect of previous mayors,” he wrote. “Thus the Times turns down our submission for an op-ed, something we have rarely offered. I think I’m safe in saying they wouldn’t have done that with Bloomberg. We better think about how to handle this reality. And how to make it impossible for them to ignore us.”




In another reply that cut out de Blasio, Ragone mused that he’d like to tell de Blasio the piece was rejected because it was “too political and pundity” for the Times. But he took the mayor off the email threat because “I’m not in the mood for the beating I will take.”

The emails also show the administration scrambling to respond to the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association saying the mayor was unwelcome at funerals — something the mayor called “appalling” as he urged his advisers to “imagine what it feels like to be the guy told to stay away from their funerals.” Hizzoner turned to both Timothy Cardinal Dolan and Gov. Cuomo for help — and while the holy man helped him, Cuomo did not, declining to call on PBA President Patrick Lynch to apologize.

“And from now on: the answer to any and all requests from the Cuomo Administration is NO,” Hizzoner wrote his aides. “The default position is NO. Then we will decide if and when there should be any yesses.”

In another 2014 exchange, de Blasio fumes that the State Senate Republicans are set to attack his wife, Chirlane McCray, in a mailer. He urged his staff to book McCray on MSNBC to fight back: “Let’s release the tiger.”

The emails also offer glimpses at de Blasio’s failed bid to launch “The Progressive Agenda” — an effort to boost progressive candidates and to hold a presidential forum. He was set to talk about his plans on Meet the Press — in an interview that wound up being on the same day as Hillary Clinton announced she was running for President. De Blasio declined to endorse her — and, his staff noted, all of the stories on his appearance were about that, not income inequality.

Cuomo, meanwhile, endorsed Clinton with gusto.

“Very typical of some in Hillaryworld to overreact in this manner,” de Blasio wrote. “Many of them really feel entitled and it killed them last time. But also perfectly likely that cuomo did the standard-issue moderate Dem thing and/or wanted to compete with me. All could be true at once.”




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