Democratic lawmaker Eliot Engel said the quiet part out loud on Tuesday.
The New York representative is in hot water after admitting on a hot mic that he “wouldn’t care” about speaking at a protest over the death of George Floyd if he didn’t have a primary coming up, the Washington Examiner reports.
“I wouldn’t care”
According to CBS News, Engel, a liberal dinosaur who has been in Congress since the late 1980s, is facing a tough primary challenge from a school principal and progressive activist, Jamaal Bowman, on June 23.
The Democrat made things a little harder for himself on Tuesday when he was inadvertently exposed as an opportunist. At a protest over the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died at the hands of Minneapolis police, Engel was caught on a hot mic complaining to Ruben Diaz Jr., the Bronx borough president.
His comments made it clear that he was just there for the photo-op.
“We cannot have all the electeds talk,” Diaz told Engel in the video, according to the Examiner. “We would never get out of here. Please bear with me. I’ll announce everybody. I appreciate you coming. I’ve got to go down the list. There are just too many folks here.”
“If I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care,” Engel replied, as the Examiner reported. “Just announce me.”
“Of course I care”
Some conservatives, especially black conservatives, have long accused Democrats of taking advantage of black voters and only feigning interest in their welfare to get votes. Engel’s comments seemed to validate that criticism while giving fresh rhetorical ammunition to his opponent, who is running a campaign to Engel’s left.
Engel is expected to have a tough fight after one of his progressive challengers dropped out and endorsed Bowman, who called Engel’s comments “painful to watch.”
In the wake of the scandal, Engel sought to do damage control.
“In the context of running for re-election, I thought it was important for people to know where I stand, that’s why I asked to speak,” the Democrat congressman said in a statement, according to Politico. He went on:
Of course I care deeply about what’s happening in this country, that’s what I wanted to convey. I love the Bronx, grew up in the Bronx and lived here all my life. I would not have tried to impose on the Borough President if I didn’t think it was important.
But would he feel the same if it wasn’t an election year?