De Blasio Promises More Transparency After Closed-Door AIPAC Speech

Bill de Blasio. (Photo: Getty/Spencer Platt)

Bill de Blasio. (Photo: Getty/Spencer Platt)

Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed today to be more transparent after drawing criticism for delivering a fiery pro-Israel speech at an AIPAC event last night that was not disclosed on his public schedule and closed to press.

“We certainly will improve our information system to let you know about something like the AIPAC speech. We’re very comfortable doing that. We will do that,” Mr. de Blasio told reporters today at an unrelated press conference, where he was peppered with questions about the speech, first reported by Capital New York. A Capital reporter who tried to cover the event was reportedly “escorted by event security from the third floor to the lobby.”  The outlet later obtained an audio recording of the speech.

“I’ve been scrupulous about telling you where I am in terms of which city I am and all that. And I’ll keep doing that,” the mayor promised in response.

Still, the new mayor–who has gotten off to a rocky start with some in the city’s press corps–set his limits. While he said that, going forward, similar events would be announced to reporters via his public schedule, he refused to rule out attending events that organizer wanted to keep off-limits to the press.

“Now, the truth is that the event sponsors, whatever the event is, have a right to set the ground rules. And AIPAC believed–not because of me, but because of all the people speaking there–that they wanted to have the event they wanted to have the way they wanted to have it and it was a closed-press event. There are many events in this town that are closed-press events,” he said. “So we’re not here to dictate to event sponsors whether their event is open-press or closed-press, but we do owe you a clear understanding of where I am and what I’m doing.”

Asked if he thought it was appropriate for the mayor of the nation’s largest city to give significant speeches that aren’t open to the press, he replied: “I think it’s appropriate for an organization to have its own ground rules …Think about the logical conclusion to that question. So an important organization wants to do a private event, if I were to say to them, ‘Well, I can’t speak unless it’s open press,’ I don’t think that’s fair to them.'”

“We’re going to make sure that you know when I’m giving remarks,” he added, “but we have to respect each organization’s ground rules.”

In such circumstances, previous administrations, including the current White House, have sometimes released audio or allowed a pooled reporter to listen to just the official’s remarks as a compromise. But Mr. de Blasio also seemed weary to commit to that kind of arrangement.

“In many cases, we’ll be happy to do that. I’m not going to say every case because there could be some particular dynamic that would make that wrong,” he said. “But broadly speaking, yeah. We are very comfortable telling you where I am, having a lot of press conferences, having a lot of open press events.”

“This is what I do for a living is talk to you guys and talk to the public. So I’m very comfortable with it,” Mr. de Blasio continued. “I want to make sure we’re as transparent as possible.”

According to Capital, Mr. de Blasio told the audience at last night’s speech at the Hilton in Midtown that the doors at City Hall would always be open and re-committed his support for Israel.

“There is a philosophical grounding to my belief in Israel and it is my belief, it is our obligation, to defend Israel, but it is also something that is elemental to being an American because there is no greater ally on earth, and that’s something we can say proudly,” he reportedly said.