Saturday, May 30, 2009

'You're A Disgrace' (Updated)

May 28, 2009

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To the annals of Mayor Bloomberg's mistreatment of the press add his testy exchange today with The Observer's Azi Paybarah, who dared to ask Hizzoner a question about term limits.

The mayor, having just finished explaining to the DN's Celeste Katz that he happens to be "very optimistic" about the city's economy and giving anecdotal examples of how things are turning around, did not take kindly to Azi's inquiry about how this might undercut Bloomberg's own rationale for extending term limits - not to mention running for re-election.

Here's the transcript:

Azi: "If the economy is turning around as you said, does that mean that the rationale for extending term limits, which is the fiscal challenge...

Bloomberg: "I don't know. Why don't you just get to serious questions here and we'll just..."

Azi: No, but the question is...

Bloomberg: "The rationale for extending term limits is the City Council voted it, and the public's going to have a chance on Nov. 3 to say what they want, and I don't think we have to keep coming back to that. When you have a serious question about the economy i'd be happy to answer it."

"Anything else? Thank you very much. Nothing else? Great. Thank you."


And then, as the mayor walks away from the podium, he looks at Azi and says, almost under his breath: "You're a disgrace." (Read his lips).

Ironically, Bloomberg once used that very word to describe...the City Council's effort to change term limits.

Actually, he said that was an "absolute disgrace." But why quibble?

Bloomberg, who happens to be a media mogul, has a long history of tense interactions with reporters. His most recent dust-up was with blogger Michael Harris, who uses a wheelchair, during Gov. David Paterson's gay marriage press conference.

There was also his rather infamous exchange with Newsday's Michael Frazier over the word "maintain," which took place almost exactly a year ago.

UPDATE: Azi referred questions to his boss, Political Editor Josh Benson, who said (via e-mail): "It was a reasonable question. We're comfortable leaving it to everyone else to judge the quality of the response."

UPDATE2: Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser e-mailed Katz to say: "The Mayor asked me to pass along his apologies to Azi for the comment after the press conference, which I did."

Meanwhile, Comptroller Bill Thompson's campaign manager, Anne Fenton, commented:

"What’s disgraceful is the Mayor’s refusal to answer the tough questions. Calling people names, having staff block cameras and bullying the press aren’t going to stop people from asking the mayor to explain his term limits bait and switch.”

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