Somehow we suspect that the racially-charged meltdown of the last days of the 2001 Democratic Mayoral primary hasn’t been entirely forgotten, and will make its way back into this year’s contest one way or the other.
Mark Green spoke at some length about this on March 15 on NY1 News, and we thought it might be useful to put his version out here, for the record. A Green aide helpfully provided the transcript. We’ll no doubt be writing about this more later, but for now we’ll leave the comments to the peanut gallery.
Dominic raised the topic by suggesting that the 2001 run-off was “racially divisive”:
Green: Actually the ’01 mayoralty primary was not racially divisive, not even close — conventional wisdom and urban legend notwithstanding. Look, for 365 days before the primary, it was widely regarded as a very boring contest — as Bob Hardt, our producer and then a reporter, would write — and it was zero racial, other than when Peter Vallone chided the Borough President’s slogan as divisive.
Then the run-off was dominated by two big things: Mayor Giuliani sought a 90 day extension because of the chaos of 9/11. When I concurred, Freddy Ferrer attacked me for it, which was not a low blow, was not personal and was frankly substantive. I responded in turn by substantively criticizing him on choice, on the death penalty and on [downtown] rebuilding. Now part of my rebuttal was a tough ad, which was grounded in and quoted New York Times and Daily News editorials criticizing Ferrer. That did annoy a lot of ardent Ferrer supporters, but of course it wasn’t racial. David Dinkins said it wasn’t, Denny Farrell said it wasn’t, Eliot Spitzer said it wasn’t and Antonio Villaraigosia – now running for L.A. Mayor — said to me it wasn’t.
But there was one racial incident [on the last day of the run-off], as I think everybody knows. Some idiot or idiots in South Brooklyn handed out New York Post cartoon — and made some phone calls — which was indefensible and awful.
When I heard about it, I immediately attacked it, denounced it and said I wouldn’t ever work with people who did that. It was either done by freelancers who didn’t like Sharpton, according to a Village Voice article, or as Al [D’Amato just] said, sometimes you have over-exuberant supporters you can’t control. So I can’t discount the possibility that someone in my campaign did this stupid thing. If that happened, I again apologize and regret it.
But I think it’s widely inaccurate and disproportionate for some politicians and journalists to see the entire ’01 mayoral race through the lens of race when far more consequential was the impact of the greatest terrorist attack ever on 9/11 and the greatest amount of money ever spent [in a campaign], by Mayor Bloomberg at $100 a vote.