‘Society Has Changed’: De Blasio Breaks With Bratton Over Moynihan Report

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton with Mayor Bill de Blasio. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton with Mayor Bill de Blasio. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images) Photo: Spencer Platt for Getty Images

In a rare move, Mayor Bill de Blasio said today he disagreed with his police commissioner over controversial comments he made, telling reporters that he, unlike Bill Bratton, could not endorse the findings of a 1960s-era report on race relations.

Mr. Bratton said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” yesterday that he had read Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s treatise on race relations, compiled 50 years ago for the Lyndon Johnson administration, and agreed with its conclusions–that the absence nuclear families in black communities contributed greatly to their social and economic struggles.

“Everyone in this room knows I have immense respect for the commissioner,” Mr. de Blasio said during an unrelated City Hall press conference. “I happen to disagree on this one.”

Pressed further by another reporter, Mr. de Blasio said society had “changed a lot” since the report, known as “The Negro Family: The Case For National Action,” was issued.

“That report is literally half a century old and I think society has changed a lot,” the Democratic mayor said. “I think there are some assumptions in that report that just don’t hold today.”

“I just think it’s a report from another time,” he added

Some liberals have since disavowed the report, which was compiled before Moynihan, a Democrat, became a United States senator from New York. The report drew fire for its critique of black family structures and what some perceived as bias against African-Americans. The report also criticized welfare programs for perpetuating their struggles.

Mr. Bratton called the report “prescient.”

“Talk about being prescient about what was going to happen in black society, in terms of he was right on the money, the disintegration of family, the disintegration of values,” Mr. Bratton said.

“It’s gone beyond just the black community, although so much of what you are reading in The New York Times today is centered largely in communities of color in our major cities. We really need to find ways to deal with this,” he added.

Mr. Bratton, Mr. de Blasio’s most prominent and loose-lipped commissioner, occasionally articulates views that would appear out of step with City Hall. Typically, Mr. de Blasio has rushed to defend the police commissioner; recently, Mr. Bratton said he wanted to destroy the Times Square pedestrian plaza before the mayor had articulated an opinion, and broke with Mr. de Blasio earlier this year over the hiring of 1,000 new police officers. In both instances, Mr. de Blasio was eventually supportive of Mr. Bratton’s views.