“This is going to be the year that the New York Post stops spreading these things about me,” Meeks said.
Meeks had just come from a meeting with the secretary general of the United Nations. And before that, he attended a State of the State address by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in Queens. But as he sipped tea in the posh lounge of the Carlton Hotel on Madison Avenue, it was clearly the Post that was on his mind.
That’s understandable. Open up the paper many Sundays, and there’s some sort of negative article about the Queens congressman – usually followed the next day by an editorial. The tabloid has hit Meeks for his ties to indicted real estate tycoon Ed Ahmad; ties to a troubled charity he founded; the AEG scandal; his outstanding water bill; campaign cash used to fix a car; and much, much more. Its coverage has sparked subpoenas and investigations.
Our interview wasn’t scheduled to be about anything in particular. I asked Meeks about the details of the various scandals and the proposed convention center out in southeast Queens. But all the really interesting answers seemed to come when Meeks talked about the Post. What follows is an edited transcript:
C&S: So what’s your issue with the Post?
Meeks: The kind of reporting that they do is not what I think is real reporting. They have an agreement with a group called NRPC [National Legal and Policy Center], which is a right-wing, ultra-conservative group, it’s supposed to be a non-for-profit, but they feed this and that to the New York Post — and it to put it out there and keep it out there. Keep it out there, keep it. And then try to get some other people to buy in to whatever they’re saying. And have them have a media frenzy.
This is what [the non-profit] put it in their fundraising letter when they went after [Congressman] Charlie Rangel, for example. And we wish that we could get more of their fundraising letters because they’re supposedly not-for-profit – and I want to go after their not-for-profit status.
C&S: Do you have any proof that that’s true?
Meeks: What do I have here? [Laughs, and pulls out a big manila folder]. We just happened to have been able to get this [NLPC fundraising letter]. This was in 2009 against Charlie Rangel and this is where they say they exposed a tax cheat, Rangel.
[The non-profit’s letter] talks about how coverage has appeared [about Rangel] and talks about how its spread, and then talks about their strategy. And this is supposed to be a not-for-profit, but they always talk about Democrats – Barack Obama, Tim Geitner, Charlie Rangel. They talk about Nancy Pelosi. So they have an agenda. And the letter says, “Charles Rangel is, he’s the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and he’s a very powerful man. And we have him on the run. And I’m writing to ask for your help. We want to finish him off.”
C&S: Are you mentioned in the Rangel letter?
Meeks: I’m not mentioned. This was in 2009. But I almost can assure you I would be if I can get my hands on another one of their fundraising letters I would be.
C&S: So why is the Post going after you?
Meeks: I really don’t understand to be quite honest with you. It’s just two writers right now, [Melissa] Klein and [Isabel Vincent]. Some other reporters [at the Post] have talked to me off the record, and they say, ‘I don’t know why they hate you so much, you should see [Klein and Vincent] go – they just do whatever they can to get you and get whatever information.’ They just don’t understand why these two are after me.
The Post, no matter what, they’ll go around the neighborhood and they’ll talk to 30 people. One person will say something negative. And the only thing they would print is about the one thing that person that one person said. And I know that they’re still trying, because they don’t have anything – they’re still to get something on me.
C&S: People in southeast Queens have held rallies to protest what they say is the racist coverage of their local elected officials. Do you buy into that notion?
Meeks: I’m not one that goes out there and tries the race card and all that stuff. That’s not me. Others can draw that conclusion, whatever they want to do. I’m not ready to call it racism, at least yet, but the Post has had these kinds of tendencies.
The thing they say to me is that they just are trying to ‘throw these things out there.’ But how many times in the New York Post have you seen at article about Rupert Murdoch? Allegations and a lot of things have gone on, in regards to him. But you show me one article that they have in there that him in any negative way, with all those things [regarding the News of the World scandal] out there.
C&S: Whatever the merits, do believe the negative press has damaged your career?
Meeks: Absolutely not. My community, you go to the community district that I’m in, people are solidly behind me. They see through the New York Post. And I’m supported by my community, by my colleagues, we all work closely together. In fact, among us and among many folks, the New York Post has become the laughing-stock, because of what they do. So it hasn’t hurt my political career, or my political standing in my community or anything of that nature.
(Big thanks to our intern Eliza Ronalds-Hannon for transcribing this interview.)
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