Comptroller John Liu, known for his rapport with minority groups across the city, drew rare scorn from a predominately black crowd in Queens last night because he dared to make a joke about Anthony Weiner during a heated forum, in which the moderator at one point threatened to turn off a rival’s microphone.
“So I’ll be working day in and day out,” said Mr. Liu, describing how he planned to spend his time if elected mayor, during a forum inside a Laurelton, Queens church. “And you can rest assured at night, I’ll be resting up for the next day’s work … I certainly will not be taking pictures of myself.”
Immediately the laughter coming from the pews of the Linden Seventh-day Adventist Church dissolved into booing, as the crowd of several hundred turned on Mr. Liu for daring to broach the sexting scandal rocking Mr. Weiner’s campaign.
“We have to be professional and respect the church,” pleaded Roger McMillan, the forum moderator and a former member of the David Dinkins administration.
Republican Doe Fund Founder George McDonald, seated at a long table at the front of the church with the other candidates, angered the audience and the moderator further when he ripped Mr. Weiner for his scandalous behavior.
“Well, listen I’m telling you I’m running for mayor of the city of New York and this past weekend I had a very uncomfortable conversation with my 10 year-old grand-daughter Helen because she wanted to know, ‘Why is this Anthony Weiner famous?’” Mr. McDonald said as some in the audience groaned. “‘Why is he a celebrity, grandpa?’ And I couldn’t explain it to her … How do you explain to a 10 year-old who is smart, who watches the news every night, what this campaign is about?”
Later in the forum, Mr. McDonald returned to Mr. Weiner’s conduct, shouting that he was a “self-pleasuring freak.”
“Stick to the issues,” Mr. McMillan shot back.
“This is the issue!” Mr. McDonald replied.
As Mr. McDonald continued to speak beyond the time he was allotted, Mr. McMillan angrily threatened to cut off his microphone as boos rained down on the Republican.
“There is no one in the audience who is sin free,” the moderator reminded him.
For his part, Mr. Weiner, who refused to address Mr. McDonald or Mr. Liu by name, maintained the steadfast defiance that has become his default posture in the wake of his latest scandal.
“You know, I’ve had a lot of people chirping at the fringes, you heard from one of them earlier,” Mr. Weiner said, standing as he spoke. “People trying to slow me down, people saying, ‘Oh no, you don’t want to wage this fight. Sit down, we don’t want to hear from you.’”
“This is the way it’s going to be when I’m mayor,” he continued, his voice shriller. “People surrounding me with cameras and trying to push me, push me, push me, and I’m going to keep fighting for the middle class and those struggling to make it.”
Filing out of the church after the forum, the attendees were mostly impressed with Mr. Weiner’s redemption narrative–contrary to his sinking standing in recent polls.
“We all, all have sinned,” said Laurelton resident Etta Brown. “There’s a psalm called, ‘We fall down, but we get back up.’ I like what he’s saying, I like Weiner, I really do.”
Meeting a thicket of reporters in the rain after the forum, Mr. Weiner, surrounded by his sign-wielding volunteers, remained dismissive.
“I know it pains you to report it, but what happened in this room happens all over the city every single day,” Mr. Weiner challenged one reporter. “And for four years as mayor, I’m going to keep fighting for those people.”