New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the Democratic front-runner to succeed him as mayor is waging a "class warfare and racist" campaign, according to an interview published on New York Magazine's website on Saturday.
Bill de Blasio, the city's public advocate who has built his campaign around rising economic inequality, has been surging in public polls, overtaking the race's longtime front-runner, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a Bloomberg ally.
"Tearing people apart with this ‘two cities' thing doesn't make any sense to me," Bloomberg is quoted as saying. Asked if he has been running a class-warfare campaign, Bloomberg replied, "class warfare and racist."
With Tuesday's primary contests looming, Bloomberg offered a tacit endorsement of Quinn on the Democratic side and, on the Republican side, Joe Lhota, the former head of the city's mass transit agency, saying the New York Times endorsement of those candidates got it right.
"I thought the Times was right in their editorials on Lhota and Quinn. I'm very pleased about that," Bloomberg said.
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Since taking office in 2002, Bloomberg has been credited with a historic drop in crime, sweeping changes to the city's public schools and making New York a national leader on public health and carbon reduction. But the billionaire mayor is often criticized for appearing out of touch on issues such as the city's affordability and services for the poor and the homeless.
None of the Democratic candidates have openly sought his endorsement.
Bloomberg's decision four years ago to seek a change to the city's term-limits law so he could run for a third term damaged the reputation of Quinn, who supported that decision. De Blasio emerged as one of the loudest opponents of the change, which helped elevate his stature in the city.
'Our poor are wealthy'
In the magazine interview, Bloomberg reserved his strongest words for de Blasio, who is white, taking issue in particular with the visible role played by the candidate's wife, who is black, and their two children.
De Blasio's son, Dante, who is biracial and wears his hair in a tall afro, starred in a campaign ad that promoted de Blasio's opposition to the controversial stop-and-frisk policing tactic that overwhelmingly targets young black and Latino men.
"I mean, he's making an appeal using his family to gain support. I think it's pretty obvious to anyone watching what he's been doing," Bloomberg told the magazine. "I do not think he himself is racist. It's comparable to me pointing out I'm Jewish in attracting the Jewish vote. You tailor messages to your audiences and address issues you think your audience cares about."
A spokesman for de Blasio said the candidate would respond to Bloomberg at an event on Saturday afternoon. Bloomberg's office declined to offer any additional statement, and Quinn's and Lhota's campaigns also offered no immediate comment.
Bloomberg also took issue with criticism that the city's poor have suffered during his three terms in office, which comes to an end in 2014.
"I'm not being cavalier about it, but most places in the world our poor are wealthy. There's a lot of tragedy around the world," Bloomberg said.
Previous measures of poverty looked at income and not services available to individuals — like air conditioning, which Bloomberg said was available to most Americans.
"When we grew up we didn't have air conditioning. Air conditioning in the schools, the subways. Are you crazy? Now, by most of the world's standards, you ain't poor," he said.