Consultant George Arzt, who worked on the successful campaigns of both John Liu and Bill de Blasio, insisted on Friday that their reactions to Mayor Bloomberg’s post-election phone call last week weren’t as different as a story in The Times made it sound.
In a story Thursday, The Times reported that de Blasio sat with the mayor for a “highly visible” cup of coffee, while John Liu declined on the grounds that he was too busy for any photo-ops with the mayor and later offered this quote: “A long time ago, the people of New York decided there would be no king nor a monarch in New York City.”
An observer might have been forgiven for thinking that Liu had deliberately set up a contrast between his defiant behavior and that of de Blasio, who had, in fact, acceded to the mayor’s request for a joint photo-op.
But Arzt said it was a misunderstanding.
“John was in Queens, had a talk with the mayor in the morning, and he was in Queens thanking voters, and the mayor’s office asked if they could get him to come to the diner,” he said on Friday. “But he didn’t know until 10:12 in the morning so it would have been hard for him to do that. And then the mayor’s office put out word that the mayor was snubbed. But John had said we were setting up a different time.”
Arzt said the mayor’s office had been unable to reach Liu the previous evening to make advance plans, and speculated that perhaps they had reached de Blasio that night. (Chris Smith subsequently reported that de Blasio also got the call that morning, but with a lighter morning schedule.)
As for the confrontational tone, Arzt said “it wasn’t like that at all.” He said Liu’s quote was a reaction to what he heard from reporters. “The context of that quote was that reporters came to him after having a conversation and said, ‘There are people in the mayor’s office who said you snubbed the mayor,’ and he was angry about having it portrayed that way. And he was angry at people in the mayor’s office who did that, and he didn’t understand because he had a good phone conversation with the mayor,” Arzt said.
A spokesman for Mayor Bloomberg declined to respond to the charges they conveyed a snub, reiterating instead that the mayor plans to meet with Mr. Liu sometime this week–at a mutually convenient time in their respective schedules.
Arzt also said he had spoken to his old boss former mayor Ed Koch, who blasted Liu’s refusal as “outrageous” and called for a public denunciation.
“I told Ed that he was wrong, he didn’t know what happened,” Arzt said. “Ed didn’t understand how the quote came about.”