Rev. Al Sharpton offered a robust defense of Rachel Noerdlinger this morning, backing the chief of staff to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s wife in the wake of a sudden announcement that she will be taking a leave of absence from City Hall.
Ms. Noerdlinger, who had faced months of scrutiny over her boyfriend and son’s criminal past, once served as a top aide to Mr. Sharpton.
“National Action Network and I fully support Rachel Noerdlinger in her decision to take a leave of absence at some point from her duties as chief of staff to the First Lady of New York, so she can spend time with her son,” Mr. Sharpton said. “Rachel has been a valuable asset to the progressive movement, the City of New York, National Action Network and myself; but she has always made it clear that she is a mother first.”
Mr. Sharpton invoked his own past legal troubles, asserting that Ms. Noerdlinger, too, would overcome “media distortion, smears and outright lies.” The reverend is close to Mr. de Blasio, angering police unions and other critics who insist the firebrand has too much influence at City Hall.
Pushing back against those charges, Mr. Sharpton said he had spoken with the mayor about the Noerdlinger decision while at the same time insisting he had no role in Ms. Noerdlinger being hired. “I spoke with Mayor de Blasio and assured him that I will continue to work with him and the administration on the political progressive agenda we both agree on and will disagree with him when it becomes necessary,” he said.
He continued, “I respect he and the First Lady’s sensitivity to Rachel’s parental concern. I in no way was part of Rachel being hired or maintaining her position with the First Lady as some have reported, but knowing her skills I know the tremendous contributions her talents give all New Yorkers.”
Ms. Noerdlinger drew praise for helping the administration navigate the fallout of the death of Eric Garner, a black man who died in police custody this summer. But in September, reports surfaced that her live-in boyfriend Hassaun McFarlan had a long rap sheet, including a manslaughter conviction, and that Ms. Noerdlinger had omitted her boyfriend’s past from Department of Investigation forms.
Mr. de Blasio had stood by Ms. Noerdlinger throughout the initial controversy, ignoring the calls from police unions heads to sack her. But her son, Khari, was arrested on Friday on trespassing charges and was revealed to have his own history of run-ins with the law.
It’s not clear when–or if–Ms. Noerdlinger will be returning to City Hall.