Charlie Rangel is not pleased with The New York Times.
Dogged by a Times reporter after a just-ended press conference in which the dean of the New York Congressional delegation claimed he did nothing wrong by combining a series of rent stabilized apartments into one residence, Rangel bristled at the suggestion that his low rent amounted to an illegal gift from his landlords.
“Paying the legal rent is not a gift. Are you doing this deliberately or are you just stupid? Listen — if you are paying a legal rent and without the law the rent would be higher, just what school did you go to that could misinterpret that as a gift?”
When the reporter tried to push Rangel, asking if he declared the rent on his income taxes, Rangel said to the reporter, Jeremy Peters, “Don’t make yourself look more dumb than you want. They didn’t give me anything, I’m paying the highest legal rent that I can. So what questions are you making? Is it a gift? No.”
(The Times reported that the rent Rangel has been paying on three combined apartments plus a fourth that he uses as an office is far below market rate, and that he’s paying it to a landlord who has aggressively sought to convert other rent-stabilized units — ones not occupied by influential public officials — into market-rate housing.)
The reporter said that representatives, by Congressional rules, weren’t allowed to accept gifts of more than $100 and that his rent far exceeded that limit.
“I’d like to think you are just starting out and I’m an old guy and I want to help you, but there is no gift if I’m paying the highest legal rent. What would the gift be?”
Another reporter asked if he had any plans to resign from the chair of the Ways and Means Committee, or Congress, as a result of the Times story.
Rangel responded with vitriolic sarcasm.
“I have to give that some serious thought. Yes, I may give up the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, give up the seat I’ve had for 38 years, and say woe, woe, woe, woe, how could this happen to me.”
After Rangel pulled away in his SUV, a man walked by the three Times reporters feverishly typing their story and said, “I wish I could get me one of those condos.”
(Pictured above, courtesy of Azi, is Sewell Chan receiving input from David Kocieniewski, who had the A1 byline on today’s Rangel story.)
UPDATE: Chan and company have indignant reaction from some of Rangel’s neighbors to the news that he’s taking up four rent-stabilized apartments.