Mayor Bill de Blasio continued to defend a video his office produced touting his mayoral accomplishments, despite mounting criticism that the three-minute clip was an improper use of public funds because it resembled a campaign advertisement.
During a press conference on Thursday, de Blasio denied that there was anything inappropriate about the video, released Tuesday, in which two Broadway actors performed free of charge.
"Ads have to be broadcast. You have to pay to get time for an ad," he said, according to a transcript the mayor’s office released. "No one’s doing anything like that. So I think it’s a pretty big misunderstanding of what we did."
In the video, de Blasio sits in what appears to be his city-issued SUV, with an aide behind him. He listens on the phone as the song is performed, nodding his head approvingly, but also seeming to acknowledge the production may have gone too far. “This is kind of over the top,” he says to his aide in the backseat, who agrees.
The mayor addressed the video during his final press conference of the year, following a presentation with the NYPD about security surrounding the New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square.
"It’s not an ad. You can say it all day long. It’s not an ad," de Blasio said. The mayor, who is running for re-election in 2017, would not say why he employs 15 people to produce videos in addition to the press officers the office already has on staff.
While the mayor insisted at the press conference that the video wasn’t an ad because he didn’t pay a TV station or radio station for the time, one government watchdog did not agree.
“This is a virtual campaign ad that is meant to be a public-service announcement but goes beyond that in serving to promote the mayor,” Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union told The New York Times. Dadey said the timing of the ad, just before a campaign season, made it difficult to justify the use of public resources, The Times reported.
But de Blasio told reporters at the press conference that the video provided information.
“Everyone’s using video more and more — a way of transmitting information,” he said. Because a lot of people receive their information that way, he added, "it makes sense that government has to do it, too."