Lhota Says You Shouldn’t Ask About Columbus’s Controversial History Today

Joe Lhota greets a passerby during the Columbus Day Parade today.

Joe Lhota greets a passerby during the Columbus Day parade today.

Bill de Blasio is willing to question Christopher Columbus’s history of violence on Columbus Day, but don’t ask his main rival to do the same thing.

“I think that is an inappropriate question to ask on a day when we’re honoring his birthday,” Joe Lhota, the Republican candidate in the race, told Politicker this afternoon when asked to share his thoughts on Columbus as an influential figure in European imperialism. (In fact, the day celebrates the landing of Mr. Columbus’s ship in the Americas.)

Later his campaign spokeswoman, Jessica Proud, piled on over Twitter and called Mr. de Blasio a “hypocrite” for separately praising the lefty Sandinista regime in Nicaragua. “Amazing that ‪@deBlasioNYC has a problem with Columbus but takes no issue with Sandinistas,” Ms. Proud wrote.

But Columbus questions aside, Mr. Lhota was in a cheery mood today.

“I love the diversity of New York. This is just representative of a part of our diversity. Italian Americans today are celebrating Christopher Columbus and I think it’s great—part of me has Italian blood,” Mr. Lhota said before he began the Fifth Avenue trek. “So I’m looking forward to the march.”

But he couldn’t escape his Democratic opponent. Mr. Lhota briefly met Mr. de Blasio, who was strolling in the opposite direction, after a reporter pointed him out.

“Where is he?”  Mr. Lhota asked, turning around to wave and say hello. (Mr. de Blasio, smiling and far ahead in the polls, didn’t appear to respond and kept on walking.)

Later, Mr. Lhota said he was confident in his chances and would be spending his time “studying up on the issues” for tomorrow’s televised debate, one of three before Election Day.

“Bill will talk about his vision for the City of New York,” he told reporters, “and I will talk about my vision for the City of New York. They are very, very different.”

Clarification (4:14 p.m.): Updated story to reflect that Columbus Day celebrates the day Mr. Columbus landed in the Americas, not his birthday.