Something strange is going on in and around City Hall in the Big Apple. Regular readers have gotten more than their fair share of news here about Mayor Bill de Blasio and his many adventures in progressive values and alleged campaign finance shenanigans, but you didn’t need to rely on us. The Mayor has traditionally spent so much time in front of banks of microphones that some of us were left to wonder if he didn’t have a documentary about his own life in the works. The New York City press largely loves him and he’s always spread plenty of access around to them in return. But not recently.
It’s been four weeks since the Mayor has taken any questions from the press at his many stops touring the boroughs and promoting his various initiatives. As the New York Times is reporting this week, this is completely out of character for de Blasio and people are beginning to wonder what’s up.
After arriving in a ferryboat festooned in bunting, with big-band jazz blaring from the shoreline, Mayor Bill de Blasio made an announcement on Monday that New York City’s new ferry service would soon begin. Then he walked away.
No questions were asked; no questions were allowed.
In most other times, this would be a strange sight, seeing the mayor of the nation’s largest city pass up a chance to pontificate and parry with the City Hall press corps. But over the past four weeks, Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, has staunchly exhibited an approach that might be described as “don’t ask, don’t answer.”
No questions were allowed after a Police Academy graduation, by the statue known as “Fearless Girl” in Lower Manhattan, or even at a handful of events during the mayor’s weeklong road trip on Staten Island last week.
Why would the Mayor suddenly become so camera shy? This is a guy who has always loved raising his own profile as high as possible. He was a featured speaker at the Democratic National Convention last summer and is regularly mentioned as a possible, future candidate for New York Governor or even the presidency. So what gives?
For their part, City Hall is pretending that this is nothing out of the ordinary.
City Hall disputed any change in strategy. “The reality is that we’re having the most consistent, comprehensive contact with the media than at any point in the administration,” said Eric F. Phillips, the mayor’s press secretary. “Our strategy is keeping pace with the ever-changing media landscape, which is crucial when our task is communicating to constituents in the world’s most competitive media market.”
Taking zero questions is the most consistent, comprehensive contact imaginable? Some in the New York press corps were unable to pass on the opportunity to compare that to some of President Trump’s statements in the past. Others noted that the Mayor’s Twitter feed is now his favorite method of getting the word out to the public. (I follow him myself and I can assure you that he stays busy.) This was yet another parallel to the 45th President. Mayor de Blasio seems to be bypassing the mainstream media and “taking his message to the public” on social media. But wait… I thought that was a bad thing?
With no answers coming from City Hall, I suppose we’ll be stuck making up some of our own, eh? Perhaps Bill is afraid that people will begin asking him why the city is losing population like a plague ship. Or could it be that the multiple investigations into his campaign finance activities which were mysteriously and conveniently closed recently might resurface? Or is he worried that some former presidential candidate might still decide to challenge him for his job and she leads him by twenty points in the polls? Or perhaps it’s something else entirely.
Either way, if Mayor de Blasio doesn’t want us making up answers on our own, perhaps he should get back to taking some questions from the press. And if he wants to bash the President for using Twitter to get the word out to the voters, he might want to put down the phone himself.