'What you should know' about Rubén Díaz Sr.’s bizarre column

Ruben Diaz Sr.
Ruben Diaz Sr.
Celeste Sloman/for City & State
Ruben Diaz Sr.

'What you should know' about Rubén Díaz Sr.’s bizarre column

Critics say his peculiar communication method uses government email inappropriately.
July 17, 2018

New York City Councilman Rubén Díaz Sr. is an idiosyncratic institution in New York politics. The former state senator and Pentecostal minister is known for his social conservatism, his trademark cowboy hat and, for a cadre of lucky email subscribers, his regular self-published column entitled “What You Should Know.”

Diaz’s penchant for writing political missives using his government email address has gotten him into hot water recently. On Monday, the city Council’s Committee on Standards and Ethics held a hearing about Díaz’s alleged use of government email to send political messages to staffers and colleagues.

The “What You Should Know” posts, a feature of the New York City political scene for years, feature Díaz’s ruminations on current political and cultural flashpoints, as well as occasional gossip and corny jokes. They generally begin with “you should know,” before launching into Díaz’s topic of the moment. Díaz has commented on everything from fashion choices in state government to issues of national politics.

In a post written while still a state senator in 2012, Díaz commented on the unofficial competition between state Sens. Jose Serrano and Joseph Addabbo.

“When I asked Senator Adriano Espaillat what was his opinion about who wears the best hairdo in the Senate, and told him that he was the tie-breaking vote, he voted for Senator Addabbo,” Díaz wrote. Espaillat is now a congressman. “Senator Espaillat noted that while Senator Serrano prefers to comb his hair toward the back of his head, Senator Addabbo combs his hair toward his forehead. So yes, we can conclude that Senator Addabbo has won by a hair.”

Díaz’s posts can also share personal news. In one post entitled, “Wow! Governor Andrew Cuomo Mentioned My Name in His Book!” Díaz adopted a gently mocking tone as he quotes passages from Cuomo’s “All Things Possible.” Cuomo had mentioned Díaz for his opposition to same-sex marriage. “On my behalf, I am honored that the Governor mentioned me by name in his book, and let the whole world know about my principled stand against his gay marriage legislation,” Díaz wrote.

In 2015, Díaz invited U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, then a presidential candidate, to the South Bronx, and imagined Cruz’s possible tour as a thought experiment. “Imagine Ted Cruz traveling to the Bronx where there is a grassroots army of Black and Hispanic Evangelical Christians who are just like him – and who have been ignored by every Presidential candidate,” Díaz mused.

In a 2016 post, Díaz weighed in on Hillary Clinton’s infamous “basket of deplorables” comment, arguing that almost everyone would be in said metaphorical basket. “According to Hillary Clinton, if you are a sexist, you belong in the Basket of Deplorables,” Díaz wrote. “You should know that if most men were honest with themselves, and thought about any time they complimented a woman because of the way she looked, or spoke with other men about their thoughts about women, they would belong in the Basket of Deplorables.”

Díaz has continued his posts after being elected to the city Council in 2017, and they have not lost their combative tone. In April, Díaz condemned New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer for endorsing the primary challengers to two members of the now-defunct Independent Democratic Conference. In late March, Stringer endorsed Robert Jackson, the primary challenger to state Sen. Marisol Alcantara, and Jessica Ramos, who is running against state Sen. Jose Peralta.

“You should know that apparently, it seems that the New York City Scott Stringer does not like Latinos, especially Dominicans to occupy state elected office,” Díaz wrote. “Rumor also has it that Mr. Stringer has seen the opportunity to divide and get even with the Dominicans for past rifts between him and the Dominican Leadership. So, like a warrior that hungers for vengeance, Mr. Stringer has decided to support candidates against the only two Dominicans (Alcantara and Peralta) leaving Jeff Klein and his White Senators out of Stringer’s firing range.”

Díaz generally signs off on his posts with, “I am Councilman Rev. Rubén Díaz and this is what you should know,” and this is what you should know about them.

Grace Segers
is City & State’s digital reporter. She writes daily content on New York City and New York state politics.