New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s inaugural was filled with “backward-looking speeches both graceless and smug” The The New York Times said in a scathing editorial Friday.
The paper’s editorial board called out three inauguration participants for their demagoguery and defended former Mayor Michael Bloomberg from the speakers’ jabs at his tenure.
“Worst among them, but hardly alone, was the new public advocate, Letitia James, who used her moment for her own head-on attack: on the 12 years of Mayor Michael Bloomberg,” read the Times editorial.
James, who now holds the office formerly held by de Blasio, brought a 12-year-old girl named Dasani Coates to the stage to highlight child hunger.
“Ms. James turned her into Exhibit A of an Inauguration Day prosecution: the People v. Mayor Bloomberg,” said the Times of Coates’ appearance.
The New York Post reported that James inaccurately claimed to have something to do with shedding light on Coates’ story.
The Times editorial also criticized “the pastor whose invocation likened New York to a “plantation.”
Rev. Fred A. Lucas Jr. of Brooklyn Community Church peppered his bombastic invocation with several references to slavery and bondage, likening the institution to the city’s current struggle with economic inequality and poverty.
“Oh God, oh God, oh God: Break every chain, break every chain, break every chain,” said Lucas in a strong preacher’s cadence.
The Times also had harsh words for entertainer, activist and stalwart de Blasio supporter Harry Belafonte who, the Times said, “strangely laid the problem of America’s crowded prisons at the feet of the former mayor, an utterly bogus claim, while saying Mr. Bloomberg shared responsibility for the nation’s ‘deeply Dickensian justice system.’”
The 86-year-old Belafonte is perhaps best known for “The Banana Boat Song.”
De Blasio backed his supporting cast. “I’m very comfortable with all that was done,” said de Blasio at a news conference when asked about his inaugural speakers’ explosive speeches.
The Times pushed back against the speakers’ characterization of Bloomberg, who was first elected as a Republican, as “a cartoon Gilded Age villain.” The Times has largely defended Bloomberg, writing in a Dec. 29 editorial that “Over all, however, New York is in better shape than when he became mayor.”
“He deserved better than pointless and tacky haranguing from speakers eager to parrot Mr. de Blasio’s campaign theme,” said the Times editors, who patted Bill Clinton on the back for bringing the event “back to a grown-up level” with his speech. Clinton attended the outdoor inaugural with his wife Hillary. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg also attended the event.
Despite the strong words for the inaugural participants, the Times maintained their support for de Blasio’s progressive agenda.
“He deserves credit for an ambitious, admirable agenda,” wrote the editors. “Progressive values run deep in this city, and Mr. de Blasio is right that New York at this moment needs to regain touch with its proud history and character.”
The Times editorial page endorsed de Blasio against Republican Joe Lhota, though they endorsed Christine Quinn over de Blasio and a field of many other Democrats during the party primary.
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