NYC’s Liberal Democratic Mayor Defends His Decision to Shake Donald Trump’s Hand

Mayor Bill de Blasio addresses Donald Trump at the 9/11 Memorial event in September.

Mayor Bill de Blasio addresses Donald Trump at the 9/11 Memorial event in September. Bryan R. Smith/AFP/Getty Images

Mayor Bill de Blasio justified his brief, cordial interaction with Donald Trump—a man he has repeatedly reviled as a racist—at last night’s Alfred E. Smith Dinner, a major philanthropic gathering that de Blasio argued called for temporarily suspending political hostilities.

Appearing on his weekly “Ask the Mayor” segment on WNYC, the de Blasio faced questions from host Brian Lehrer about his handshake with the flailing GOP presidential nominee, who used the historically gracious and self-effacing occasion at the Waldorf Astoria to bitterly attack Hillary Clinton. The mayor argued that the event, which raises money for Catholic charities and celebrates the legacy of a late liberal governor of New York, demanded a rare partisan armistice.

“At that dinner, it is a night to celebrate the archdiocese’s charitable work, it is a night that is supposed to be when people put aside their differences, so, no, in that context I would shake his hand,” said the mayor, a Clinton backer. “In other contexts, I would have to think very deeply about how to engage him in any way, shape or form.”

In fact, de Blasio engaged with the GOP candidate at the annual 9/11 memorial event last month, as evidenced in the photo above—as did the mayor’s despised rival in the New York Democratic Party, Gov. Andrew Cuomo.  The governor, another Clinton supporter, took criticism for his short talk with Trump at Ground Zero and presented a similar defense to the one de Blasio offered today.

Trump has in the past labeled de Blasio  a “maniac,” “the worst mayor in the United States” and “the worst mayor in the history of New York City.” But last night, the Queens-born businessman suggested the two of them might have enjoyed a warmer relationship had he remained in Manhattan real estate instead of entering national politics.

The candidate drew boos when he used his time at the mic to claim Clinton was at the event “pretending not to hate Catholics,” an allusion to controversial comments about religious voters one of her aides made in a leaked email.

Only hours before, a 10th woman had emerged alleging the candidate had sexually molested her years ago.

Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.