Compared to some of the various acid barbs, odd gaffes and cruel-sounding quips Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been known to lob at humans, animals and the press corps, it seemed possibly out of proportion for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn to walk out of a living wage legislation press conference after an attendee called the mayor “Pharaoh Bloomberg,” according to multiple press reports.
“That’s not appropriate. You stand here talking about democracy and wanting people to listen,” she said, according to the Politicker. “In a democracy people have the right to have different views, and they do not — we do not — have the right to then call them names. So I would just ask if that’s what this protest is about, I’ll go right back on inside.”
Quinn tried to get the attendee to apologize, but to no avail.
We wonder if the mayor would have been as offended? He’s no stranger to ad-hominem and any other kind of insult, and is even pretty adept at making fun of himself.
Here are ten of his most infamous insults.
1. The Buffalo Insult:
At a housing conference at NYU, Bloomberg dissed our Northern neighbor.
“There’s an awful lot of free space up in Buffalo, New York, if you want to go there. I don’t think you do,” he said.
“Our city’s problems are problems of success. We don’t have enough classrooms. We don’t have enough roads. We don’t have enough housing. Buffalo would love to have our problems.”
2. The Irish Insult:
At an Irish Historical Society event, the mayor talked about his fond memories of St. Patrick’s Days past, when he was used to seeing “people that are totally inebriated hanging out the window.”
3. The Groundhog Insult:
Two years after prominent local groundhog Staten Island Chuck bit Mayor Bloomberg on Groundhog’s Day, the mayor faced him down again. He clearly had not forgotten the injury the rodent dealt him.
“That was so much better than having to reach in and let the little son of a bitch bite you.”
4.The Journalist Insult (#1):
At a press conference following a snowstorm shortly after the snowstorm that brought the city to its knees on Boxing Day 2010, Bloomberg fielded questions from reporters curious why he was penalizing city workers who didn’t come to work when the weather cleared, despite being told earlier to take the day off, New York Times’s City Room reported.
“I don’t know how you were brought up, I was always brought up that you had an obligation to work. Maybe it’s different in your world,” the mayor said.
5. The Journalist Insult (#2):
The mayor grew displeased with a disabled reporter after he dropped a tape player and had difficulty reaching to turn it off. (At the 2:02 mark)
6. The Journalist Insult (#3):
The mayor gets cranky with Capital New York reporter Azi Paybarah (then of the Observer) when he asks a question about the mayor’s plans for a third term. The press conference mic picks up the Mayor calling Azi a “disgrace.”
7. The Cowboys/Indians Insult:
In a WOR interview, Mayor Bloomberg told then-Gov. David Paterson how to deal with the difficult task of collecting taxes on Indian cigarettes, but he used a problematic analogy to get there.
“I said, you know, get yourself a cowboy hat and a shotgun. If there’s ever a great video it’s you standing in the middle of the New York State Thruway saying, you know, ‘Read my lips — The law of the land is this and we’re going to enforce the law,’” he said.
8. The Leader of the Free World Insult:
He later said it wasn’t true, but Rupert Murdoch gave an interview to the Australian Financial Review in which he said Bloomberg had told him he thought President Barack Obama was the “most arrogant” man he had ever met.
9. The “Formal Education” Insult:
On his radio show, the mayor said that plaintiffs in a suit filed to stop 22 poorly-performing schools from closing lacked “formal education.”
“Unfortunately there are some parents who just come from — they never had a formal education, and they don’t understand the value of education,” he said on his WOR Radio show.
10. The Dr. Atkins Weight Insult:
Having pasta dinner with New York City firefighters, the mayor said he thought diet guru Dr. Atkins’s death had more to do with his weight than a head injury. In what he thought were off the record remarks that were actually being taped, the Mayor insulted the doctor’s weight and his food, which he said was “just terrible.”
“Atkins is dead. I don’t believe that bullshit that he dropped dead slipping on the sidewalk. Yeah right.”
As an aside, it’s worth noting that Democracy, for better or worse, has a long tradition of entanglement with name-calling. In ancient Greece it was just part of the process. The Greek word for “character assassination,” which was apparently an accepted rhetorical strategy, is “diabole.”
[UPDATED] Some other notable political insults in the recent past:
News Corps. executive Rupert Murdoch, after hearing Bloomberg’s education-focused State of the City, wondered on Twitter whether “chicken Cuomo” would support the mayor’s agenda.
The infamous bomb-thrower Carl Paladino questioned Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s manhood, accused New York State Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs of being a “pig feeding at the trough,” and threatened to “take out” Post editor Fred Dicker.
Brooklyn Sen. Velmanette Montgomery once insulted the entire island of Staten Island.
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