New York reporters react to de Blasio’s White House bid

May 17, 2019
Mayor Bill de Blasio. Photo: Diana Robinson for the Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio, via Flickr.

Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City, wants to be president. Rumors of his candidacy circled the local press corps for months before coming to a head last week, when it was widely reported (and mocked). Yesterday morning, in a video posted to YouTube followed by a short appearance on Good Morning America, de Blasio announced his White House bid against the backdrop of the city he’d soon abandon for the sake of his campaign. Protesters outside the window of the GMA studio, in Times Square, heckled him, chanting “Liar! Liar! Liar!”

De Blasio has, at best, a complicated relationship with the press. Over the past six years, he has fought openly with journalists, rejecting coverage he didn’t like, bashing the tabloids as “corporate media,” reducing his number of press conferences, and sometimes refusing to take questions from certain outlets entirely. Reporters had much to say about his decision to run for president—and they did so without the usual modesty with which other candidates are treated. De Blasio’s candidacy received a New York welcome.

“If you’re not laughing then you don’t know Bill de Blasio like we know Bill de Blasio,” the editorial board of the New York Post wrote. “He is both incompetent and crooked; oblivious and arrogant.” Yesterday’s paper showed spectators munching on popcorn and doubled over with laughter. In the Daily News, Harry Siegel, a columnist, speculated that de Blasio’s eagerness to expand his reach outside of New York City might have something to do with the long list of controversies he’s accrued since he was first elected, in 2013. De Blasio, Siegel writes, has no shortage of reasons to flee “the pesky local reporters with long memories who keep stepping on his applause lines and lofty rhetoric with their, you know, reporting.”

On Twitter, the press didn’t pull punches. MSNBC tweeted a New Yorker’s response to the announcement: hysterical laughter. StreetsBlog NYC, a transit publication, ran an editorial congratulating the mayor and advising him to resign. Julianne Cuba, a reporter at Streetsblog, drew attention to the city’s targeting of immigrant delivery cyclists on e-bikes: “‘It’s time to finally put *working people first.’ *except delivery cyclists on e-bikes.” Jeremy Scahill, a co-founder of The Intercept, mocked de Blasio for his failure to improve the subway system: “Get onboard the de Blasio train! (There are significant delays and you may need to take two buses).” Maggie Haberman, of The New York Times, teased de Blasio for his choice of setting for his campaign launch video: “Few sites convey a sense of everyday New York like the gated, luxurious confines of Gracie Mansion.” Catherina Gioino, a Daily News writer watching the announcement on TV, posted, “Cuomo making an announcement during de Blasio’s campaign presser is the petty I’m living for.”

Sign up for CJR's daily email

More than a few journalists made note of a particularly damning Mayor de Blasio memory: the time when, on Groundhog Day 2014, he fumbled Staten Island Chuck, the city’s beloved spring-signaling groundhog—actually, in this case, Charlotte (a stand-in, after a troubling biting incident)—who died not long after. “Mayor Bill de Blasio has groundhog blood on his hands!” the Post reported later that year. “That groundhog Bill de Blasio dropped… the north remembers,” John Paul Brammer, a columnist for Out Magazine, tweeted. “Justice for staten island chuck,” agreed Sarah Jones, of New York Magazine. Tim Murphy, a reporter for Mother Jones, chimed in, “de blasio running for president is like groundhog day in the sense that every single day will feel a little like the day he killed the groundhog.”

“The good thing about New Yorkers is they look the same whether they’re really pissed off at you or they like you,” de Blasio says in his campaign video’s opening moments. If he can’t recognize the look of skepticism among the city’s press, maybe he should listen.

Alexandria Neason was CJR’s staff writer and Senior Delacorte Fellow. Recently, she became an editor and producer at WNYC’s Radiolab.