The City Council just held a moment of silence for Michael Jackson.
Apparently in protest, several council members quietly walked out of the room just before it began.
Republicans Jimmy Oddo and Eric Ulrich, along with Democrats Peter Vallone Jr. and Lew Fidler all left the Council chambers just before Inez Dickens and Helen Diane Foster heaped praise on Jackson for his musical accomplishments and charitable work.
“As a person, Michael was conflicted and controversy confronted him often,” said Dickens, a Democrat from Manhattan. “But Michael also cared about human suffering and donated much of his wealth to stop the suffering, stop the deaths and destruction. He was an ambassador of peace.”
“I think it’s only fitting that this city and this Council stand in a moment of silence for the King of Pop, Michael Jackson,” said Foster, a Democrat from the Bronx.
Oddo, via text message, confirmed he left the room in response to the tribute. Fidler could be seen in the lobby of the Council chambers, peering through the glass doors as Foster praised Jackson.
Vallone, a conservative Democrat who chairs the Public Safety Committee, jokingly said he left the room for the same reason Republican State Senator Frank Padavan accidentally wandered through the Senate chambers in Albany—that is, in search of a cup of coffee.
“That’s what I was doing, wink,” said Vallone.
UPDATE: Lew Fidler told me afterwards, “Clearly his death is a tragedy,” but “I’m the chairman of the Youth Services Committee in the Council and the man was probably a serial pedophile, may have well died of a drug overdose.”
Fidler said the talents of a celebrity don’t necessarily “make them a role model. While we can mourn his death I don’t know that standing up on the floor of the Council to pay tribute to a life I wouldn’t want my kids to aspire to was appropriate.”
He said Jackson “has multiple sealed settlements with the families of young boys. What exactly is it that we’re exalting?”
Ulrich said he left the room but not in protest of Jackson, but rather to talk to Oddo about another legislative matter.
Another Councilman who walked prior to the Jackson honor was Vinny Ignizio, a Republican of Staten Island.