Mayor de Blasio suggested Thursday that critics of his decision to give his wife Chirlane McCray a high-profile role in the city’s coronavirus response are racist and sexist.
“There’s been critics from the beginning,” he said at a press conference. “I don’t know if they were uncomfortable because she was a woman … because she is an African American or because she is an African-American woman.
“I don’t what was motivating the critics, but this has been the fact from day one, long before she even considered anything in terms of public office,” the mayor added.
The comments came after McCray joined de Blasio to announce $3 million in funding for restaurants struggling in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
The mayor and the city’s first lady have come under withering accusations of nepotism since it surfaced that McCray is planning a potential run for Brooklyn borough president next year.
But on Thursday, she voiced reluctance about taking on a prominent role in the administration.
“I’m not someone who thrives in the limelight,” she said. “I don’t need the attention of being in front of the cameras. In fact, it’s very difficult for me.”
McCray said she asked herself Thursday morning, “Why am I doing this?” but explained, “I feel like it’s my duty … to do what I can to make things better.”
A diverse range of elected officials has decried de Blasio’s move to make McCray co-chair of a task force on ensuring racial equity during the coronavirus response.
“Maybe a mayor can get away with this stuff during normal times where he would be able to justify the appointment of his wife, who I think is not a health expert, is not someone that has dealt with pandemics before,” Councilman Antonio Reynoso, a Dem who’s also running for Brooklyn beep, recently told the Daily News.
“This is a great task force to have and should be led by medical professionals,” said Republican Councilman Joe Borelli of Staten Island. “Government may be the problem.”
McCray’s role in the coronavirus response follows years of controversy over her handling of the ThriveNYC mental health initiative, which critics say has little to show for its roughly $1 billion budget.
More recently, elected officials and activists from the Black Lives Matter movement have slammed de Blasio for strongly defending the NYPD in spite of widely documented instances of aggressive police conduct toward protesters.
“You can no longer hide behind your black wife and children, not anymore,” Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said during a June 5 press conference. “You’re exposed now. We are at a time when we need your leadership. It is not there.”
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