Last week, State Senator Adriano Espaillat’s campaign circulated a tough mailer against his primary opponent, Assemblyman Guillermo Linares, in which they accused Mr. Linares of “betraying” the community by backing Rep. Charlie Rangel over Mr. Espaillat’s bid to become the country’s first Dominican-American congressman earlier this year and for taking campaign contributions from special interests.
Mr. Rangel, a backer of Mr. Linares’ bid, is angry about the mailer. Really angry. So angry, he says, that he was motivated, in the spirit of the anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, to condemn the controversial campaign literature in question. To that end, Mr. Rangel held a press conference where he gave a ten minute speech expressing his outrage.
Waving a copy of the mailer and standing before a crowd holding up flags from various countries, Mr. Rangel was uncharacteristically fiery but characteristically loquacious.
Mr. Rangel’s remarks were clearly far too epic to edit. As such, we present a full transcript below.
“This is not a very good day for me. Most of you know the country is sharing the pain that we all felt on 9/11. I was so pleased to hear that Senator Espaillat has suspended his campaign today in memory of the lives that were lost and the attack that was made against our great city and against our great country and indeed the civilized world. And that’s what makes this so-called ‘press conference’ so painful, because of what this country means to all of us. The liberty that we enjoyed, people all over the world can’t even dream about the concept, and one of the things that makes us different from most people is that when the flag goes up, when we’re talking about coming together with the unity that we had with 9/11, all of my political life, especially the days that I spent in the Congress, it has been with the concept of tranquility that people who have differences worked those differences out.
“For people to take a look at one’s religion and their color and their language and their background, and to say that that should make a difference — let’s face it, I’m honest, I’m no new kid on the block. Everyone should want to see someone who looks like them and have their culture achieve the highest stations that we have in this country. Don’t let me lie to you and tell you I don’t feel a sense of pride with President Obama. As many differences as I may have with this president, I do feel a sense of pride for me, and my children, and my grandchildren! So the whole concept that one shouldn’t take this into consideration, you leave that to those people that want to give a sermon on the mound.
“But I want to be realistic with you. But in this great country, to call a patriot a ‘traitor’? To call someone who ventured to this country in order to make not only his life better, but to make America better? Who plays by the rules? Who comes here to improve the quality of education and he himself says he needed a little education? Who worked hard? Who gained political respect, not just by the public officials and the mayor, but by the people outside of his community? Doctor Linares’ biggest asset was bringing people together no matter what their background was! To call this man a ‘traitor’ disappoints me beyond belief.
“Now, let me make it clear, when I drafted this press release, it had a whole lot of anger in it. When I finished it, it was a whole lot of reaching out. I could not believe that the senator was aware that this filth was being circulated. So I changed everything and said, ‘Let him join with us today to reject whoever thought that they could put a wedge between our communities based on one’s background.’
“But last night, I got a chance to watch a rerun of New York 1. And the question was asked, ‘Is it true that you sent out this piece of literature condemning this man as a traitor because he supported me?’ And I expected to hear a whole lot of political mumbling and rejection and ‘someone did this but I don’t know who.’ But instead of doing that, instead of rebutting the fact that this came out of his political club, instead of rejecting having his fingerprints on it and sending it out, he starting talking about public officials who had endorsed him. He started talking about Bill de Blasio and going to the Justice Department and Billy Thompson for endorsing him. Let me tell you something senator, you can mention all of the names you want, whether it’s Cuomo, de Blasio or Thompson, I know them well enough to know they reject this and they reject the idea of this type of filth going out there.
“We should never reach the point in this great country that political decisions are going to make you condemned as a traitor. Where you and your family and your community where you’re raising your kids and your grand kids, and the label’s going to be on you that you’re a traitor. Traitor has a painful, painful label. This is not calling you a ‘disappointment,’ this is not saying, ‘I disagree with you.’ If you’re a patriot, this means something to you. This is a stigma that no person has a right, just because they come from the same country before they reach this great country, when you get to this great country it means you put this filth behind you if you had it when you got here.
“And so I want these cameras to take a look at America. It stands behind me. It doesn’t say Catholic, Protestant, Jew or Gentile. It doesn’t say Latino, non-Latino. And the day will come that we don’t want to have a Catholic called a traitor because they voted for a Protestant over a Catholic. Or a Jew is called a traitor because they voted for a Gentile over a Jewish member. Or a black is called a traitor because they endorsed a non-black for a job.
“Pride is one thing, attacking someone in this manner is something else. And so it’s not too late to say we make mistakes. We all make mistakes. This was more than a mistake. This was more than a mistake. It allows people to believe that you can go to a Jewish person and say, ‘Yes I know our candidate’s a bum, but you should vote for him anyway because he’s Jewish.’ Can you imagine? Or a Catholic could say it. Or a Muslim could say it! Or a Mormon could say it!
“God forbid all of this pain and poison is not out of our country, but we’re trying like hell to get rid of it. We’re trying like hell to get rid of it. And so I don’t think there’s much more for me to say. I think this crowd, this multi-color, multicultural crowd speaks for itself, speaks for our country, speaks for our beloved congressional district here and the Bronx, it speaks for our country, it speaks for those who died for our country, and I don’t see how the hell I can add anything to it.”
Mr. Rangel declined to take much in the way of additional questions after delivering his lengthy statement.