This weekend, Congressman Charlie Rangel was asked what President Obama should do while in town (the President and his wife went to Joe Turner’s Come and Gone and restaurant Blue Hill). Rangel replied, “Make certain he doesn’t run around in East Harlem without identification.”
It was a mordant jest, in the manner of Dick Gregory, relating to the slaying of black police officer Omar Edwards by white colleagues last week. But the New York Post, which knows satire mainly via the works of Sean Delonas, portrayed the comment at an attempt at cheap laughs (“There’s nothing like a tragic police shooting to bring a guffaw out of Rep. Charlie Rangel“). The Daily News was less provocative but similarly po-faced, saying “Rangel, in wake of cop shooting, suggests even President Obama not safe in Harlem.”
Today the Post has Mayor Bloomberg, whom they describe as “livid,” saying, “I have a lot of respect for Charlie Rangel, but in this respect, he’s just plain wrong.” (The Associated Press also noted the Mayor’s comment, but skipped the characterization of his tone.) The Post grills comptroller William Thompson and Governor Paterson on Rangel’s crack; Paterson attempts to explain its intent to the literal-minded (“I think whatever he says expresses the viewpoints of a lot of people”) but both he and Thompson also offer suitably serious boilerplate (“there must be an independent investigation to determine if there was a failure in either police procedure or training,” etc), lest anyone think they are engaging in inappropriate laughter.
Taken with the Mayor’s outrage at a reporter’s impertinent question last week, it appears the smart-aleck comment, like sales of loose cigarettes and unprotected anal sex, is on its way out as a New York tradition.