Bill de Blasio Accepts Russell Simmons’ Apology for Calling Him a ‘Punk’

Hip hop mogul Russell Simmons. (Photo: Rob Kim/Getty Images)

Hip hop mogul Russell Simmons. (Photo: Rob Kim/Getty Images)

After hip hop mogul Russell Simmons went on Hot 97 last week and called Mayor Bill de Blasio a “bitch” and a “punk” on police reform issues, Mr. de Blasio called into the radio station himself this morning—and said Mr. Simmons had apologized.

“Russell has apologized and I certainly appreciate and accept that apology,” Mr. de Blasio said.

The mayor, whom Mr. Simmons endorsed, has frequently appeared on Hot 97’s “Ebro in the Morning” show, the same venue where Mr. Simmons said on Thursday that Police Commissioner Bill Bratton was “bullying our punk mayor” and that police had made a “bitch” of Mr. de Blasio.

The show has been a friendly venue for Mr. de Blasio—the hosts often applaud him, this morning they began their interview by congratulating the mayor’s son, Dante, for graduating high school by playing sound effects including the “Flex bomb.” The show’s hosts, Ebro Darden, Peter Rosenberg and Laura Stylez, went out of their way to tell Mr. de Blasio they didn’t endorse Mr. Simmons’ comments.

“Usually, Ebro, I’m accustomed to being the white guy who is being called a bitch on this show,” Mr. Rosenberg cracked. “We definitely gave him a crazy stare, like that’s our boy you’re talking about.”

“Also, like, are you sure this is what you want to do?” Mr. Darden continued.

“I appreciate my brothers and sisters at Hot 97 for defending my honor,” Mr. de Blasio joked.

The mayor went on to defend his administration’s record on policing, touting reductions in the number of men stopped and frisked, retraining aimed at de-escalating conflicts, the roll-out of body cameras and his policy of issuing summonses instead of making arrests for marijuana possession.

“These are big changes in how we go about policing in this city, and I’m very proud of that this stuff is moving quickly and it’s moving intensely,” Mr. de Blasio said.

In his appearance last week, Mr. Simmons was most frustrated by a lack of progress on appointing special prosecutors for cases of police misconduct—something the hip hop icon and civil rights activist has said Gov. Andrew Cuomo promised to do for him—but Mr. de Blasio said today his own focus was elsewhere.

“I would say the first thing is that we are focused on is changing the reality at the beginning—meaning I don’t wanna get to the point where there’s been a tragedy and we’re talking about a special prosecutor,” Mr. de Blasio said.

He also pointed out that Mr. Cuomo—a fellow Democrat who has frequently thwarted Mr. de Blasio’s priorities in Albany and disagreed with his proposals—has the legal authority to appoint a special prosecutor in such cases.

The mayor also discussed the stalemate in Albany over rent regulations and the renewal of the 421a tax credit, with the show’s hosts noting many people in the city are getting frustrated with the idea that those luxury condos get such big tax breaks, even if they include affordable housing. Mr. de Blasio, who is pushing an overhaul of the tax credit that Mr. Cuomo has not backed, agreed, mentioning a recent $45 million condo sale in the city.

“There is no way in hell they should get a tax break,” Mr. de Blasio said, going on to reiterate his call to end the 421a tax credit if it isn’t reformed to encourage more affordable building.

Mr. Darden and Mr. Rosenberg then jumped in with some advice and analysis on how to push through his faltering political agenda amid pushback.

“A lot of the pressure you’re getting today is, people think you’re too nice,” Mr. Darden said, adding that may have contributed to Mr. Simmons’ feelings about the mayor. Compared to previous mayors, Mr. de Blasio was more interested in listening to people and had less of a reputation for “wielding a big sword,” he said. “I think you get a lot of criticism because you’re an articulate, patient person.”

“And open-minded,” Mr. Rosenberg interjected. “You wanna have conversations, you don’t wanna just scream at people.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment. I think the fact is, history always shows us we’re moving somewhere—we’re moving forward. It’s not like the mayor’s today should be like yesterday’s mayors,” Mr. de Blasio said. “I know exactly who I am and I know what I was elected to do, and it’s to create a more equal city.”

But Mr. de Blasio’s political strategy was a theme they circled back to yet again after taking on other topics. The hosts joked that if having another guest “call out” Mr. de Blasio, as Mr. Simmons had, would get him on the show so quickly, they might have to do it again—prompting Mr. de Blasio to say the hosts need only invite him.

“Yo, you gonna have to hit this podium some day and just really start going at these haters, man, these newspapers in town, you really gonna have to start really cutting their heads off out here, man,” Mr. Darden said.

“Thank you for that helpful input,” Mr. de Blasio said with a laugh.

Bill de Blasio Accepts Russell Simmons’ Apology for Calling Him a ‘Punk’