Though the new mayor has already proven he can be evasive and testy with the city’s press corps, Bill de Blasio today waxed poetic about his love for journalists and the media at large.
The occasion, the announcement of his press team, gave Mr. de Blasio an opportunity to reflect on his own relationship with the media. Born to a family of journalists, Mr. de Blasio explained that he holds a “Jeffersonian worldview”–that the press serves a vital function in a democratic society.
“I think the free press is absolutely essential to making a democracy work. I think you’re supposed to grill us,” he said during his second press conference in the City Hall’s Blue Room. “It doesn’t mean I’ll always give you the exact answer you’re looking for, but I think this is part of the checks and balances of our society and I think I also have a clear understanding of how hard your job is.”
Mr. de Blasio even revealed that he once considered becoming a reporter himself.
“I did for a bit, never overly coherently, it certainly went through my mind,” the Democrat reflected. He recalled how, as a 12-year-old, he was riveted by the Watergate scandal that brought down the Nixon administration and grew to idolize the two reporters who played a pivotal role in exposing the corruption: Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.
“I had an extraordinary experience a year or two ago when I first met Carl Bernstein who was I think was one of the people who … had one of the biggest impact on my life,” he said. “For many of us, who were deeply affected by that moment in history, those two individuals framed and created that moment so much and so deeply.”
The mayor, who is quickly becoming known for his corny jokes, turned again to humor to frame his answers. When a reporter asked what she should do if his new press office doesn’t respond quickly to her inquiries, Mr. de Blasio offered a memorable suggestion.
“I would say you organize a band with clubs and you come down from Room 9 and you menace the press office,” he said to a smattering of laughter, referring to the room where many reporters work. “No, no, no I wouldn’t do that. I don’t think the intelligence division would like that at all, that’s not a good idea. I think with these talented press folks you should get responses quite quickly.”