The Media’s Mayoral Myths

How the Campaign Coverage Missed Coalitions, Stadiums, Affordable Homes, and Ethical Lapses

The Times compounded this error with another story on August 11 that started out almost entirely with paraphrases of Congressman Charles Rangel, citing him as saying that he and other black leaders had "decided against endorsing any of the white Democrats" and would "instead seek to create a black-Latino coalition." Though the Times' phraseology was in "notably stark racial terms," the only direct quotes from Rangel in the piece weren't racial at all. He said he and the other black leaders could not agree to support any of three candidates who happened to be white, each of whom got a word of review from Rangel, some quite generous. He said they were now considering Ferrer.

"I want to leave a legacy of trying to pull our communities together" was Rangel's explanation for a possible Ferrer endorsement. That is hardly the same as saying one wants to build a coalition that leaves others out. "I was talking about bringing a coalition together that was certainly not restricted to blacks and Latinos, but to all people of the city," Rangel told the Voice. Rangel said he was "shocked and offended by" the article, and insists, "Not only were the words not spoken, there was no concept of white, black, or Hispanic." Nagourney contends that Rangel "never talked about a broader coalition," and that while Rangel called him after the story to complain about the reference to his purported rejection of white candidates, the congressman said the story was otherwise "accurate." This combination of stories—which Ferrer has either been unable or unwilling to forcefully correct—have given his campaign an edge that suits neither his mediating personality nor his "Other New York" theme, which is more about social caste than race.

If these were the two biggest mishandled stories of the campaign, the most important unnoticed story involves the stadiums. Peter Vallone has almost made it to primary day without taking a position on the Giuliani stadium proposal that's certain to soon wind up on his desk. Despite repeated leaks about sealed deals with the Yanks and Mets in recent months, it now appears that Giuliani will stall the announcement until his friend Vallone's electoral fate is clear. All Vallone would say last week at a press event when all four candidates were asked about the stadiums was that he hoped "the mayor would come out with a plan" so that the council could consider it before leaving at the end of the year.

Vallone’s scorecard: Sons—0 for 3; stadiums—2 for 2
photo by Cary Conover
Vallone’s scorecard: Sons—0 for 3; stadiums—2 for 2

Not only does Vallone's statement suggest that he and Giuliani are on the same last-minute, lame-duck page; it suggests they're both willing to make a mockery of democracy and try to lock a new administration and new council into abillion-dollar-or-more decision. Yet none of Vallone's opponents have tried to flush him out on this. To do so, everyone seems to fear, might wake us all from our pre-primary stupor.

Research assistance: Gregory Bensinger, Brian Bernbaum, Joey Fiskin, Douglas Gillison, Lisa Schneider

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