Hynes and Thompson Clash in Furious Brooklyn DA Forum

Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes and Kenneth Thompson, with moderator Harry Siegel between them.
Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes and Kenneth Thompson.

They made Eliot Spitzer and Scott Stringer look like the stars of a buddy cop flick.

Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes and his challenger, former federal prosecutor Ken Thompson, erupted repeatedly at each other at a St. Francis College forum last night, managing to top their furious debate performance Tuesday on NY1.

Peppering his language with words like “hell” and “damn,” Mr. Hynes resembled a cantankerous father scolding an impudent son, dismissing Mr. Thompson as a liar with a flimsy résumé. Mr. Thompson, meanwhile, painted Mr. Hynes as a corrupt product of a political machine completely out of touch with the needs of minority Brooklynites. 

“Why do you lie repeatedly? You know damn well that the cultural center, I was there with Ray Kelly, you were there with Ray Kelly, and Kelly and I were paying for the guns–why would you lie like that?” Mr. Hynes asked Mr. Thompson as they clashed over the details of a gun buyback program Mr. Thompson had spearheaded.

“You, know let’s–” Mr. Thompson began.

“Don’t interrupt me, I didn’t interrupt you,” Mr. Hynes shot back.

“Be civil, be civil,” Mr. Thompson urged.

“Be civil?” Mr. Hynes exploded. “I don’t think you know what the word means!”

As the auditorium–packed with Hynes and Thompson supporters of near equal number–began to boo, Mr. Hynes grew more enraged.

“Are these folks you’ve trained to act like that?” he asked. “Trained?” Mr. Thompson incredulously asked back, perhaps suggesting Mr. Hynes had used racial overtones to the predominately black crowd. Mr. Thompson, several decades younger than the 78 year-old Hynes, is also black.

“The problem is he’s so desperate that 20 major African-American and Latino legislators–state and city, as well as district leaders–support me and not him and that’s what he’s concerned about,” Mr. Hynes sneered as his sign-holding supporters, taking up a long row in the auditorium, applauded.

“Do you know how many elected officials who have stood with you publicly have come to me and said they want me to win? But I’m not gonna go there,” Mr. Thompson replied to “ooohs” from the audience. “Let’s deal with the people who have supported me,” he continued, ticking off his endorsements from Brooklyn’s congressional delegation.

Mr. Thompson later blasted Mr. Hynes for his assistant district attorney, Michael Vecchione, who has been accused of mishandling convictions, as well as the steady drumbeat of bad press that has followed Mr. Hynes during his re-election bid. Mr. Thompson lashed out at the incumbent, for instance, over reports that his office illegally detained witnesses in locked hotel rooms and that he did not fire a prosecutor for calling prostitutes from his office phone.

Mr. Hynes, however, aggressively parried the attacks, at times as sarcastic as he was furious. Insisting Mr. Thompson was “scurrilous” with “rhetoric way in front of his ideas and brain,” he ridiculed Mr. Thompson for his relative lack of experience.

“Well good God, if you can’t manage one gun buyback program, how in the hell is he gonna produce anything of significant policy in the Brooklyn DA’s office?” he declared.

After a lighting round in which the two candidates ironically agreed on some issues, Mr. Hynes cracked a smile.

“We may have a beer one of these days,” he said.

Hynes and Thompson Clash in Furious Brooklyn DA Forum