Democrat Caught on Hot Mic: 'If I Didn’t Have a Primary, I Wouldn’t Care'
NY Rep. Eliot Engel admits he doesn't care about rioting, looting in his district
Democratic New York Rep. Eliot Engel was caught on a hot mic Tuesday, seemingly admitting that he doesn't "care" about the rioting and looting that has ravaged his district.
The 16-term Democrat congressman has been largely missing in action as his Bronx district was ravaged by the coronavirus, hitting his constituents hard.
The Bronx-Westchester lawmaker, 73, made a return Tuesday to appear at a press conference with local leaders and elected officials.
During the presser, he asked Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. if he could make some say a few words over the microphone.
According to the audio captured on a News 12 live feed, Diaz Jr. told Engel there were too many people on the list for him to speak.
Engel responded by mumbling through his face mask: “If I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care.”
“What was that?” Diaz Jr. asked him, according to the audio recording shared on Twitter by NY1 reporter Emily Ngo.
“If I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care,” he repeated.
“Don’t do that to me,” Diaz Jr. scolded him.
!!! @RepEliotEngel heard on hot mic asking @rubendiazjr for a turn to speak, says twice, "If I didn't have a primary, I wouldn't care."— Emily Ngo (@emilyngo) June 2, 2020
Diaz responds, "Don't do that to me."
(h/t @News12BX livestream) pic.twitter.com/eQnkzLiEId
The veteran lawmaker is facing an intense primary battle later this month in New York’s 16th congressional district from Jamaal Bowman.
44-year-old former middle school principal Bowman is backed by the Justice Democrats - the far-left organization that backed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for her surprise election win.
Political pundits fear Engel is setting himself up to be the next Joe Crowley, the longtime powerful incumbent who was defeated by Ocasio-Cortez in a stunning 2018 upset in the adjoining district.
In a statement, Engel, the Democrat chair of the influential House Foreign Affairs Committee, defended the remarks and said he wanted voters to know he cared deeply about the unrest roiling the city.
"In the context of running for re-election, I thought it was important for people to know where I stand, that’s why I asked to speak,” he said.
"Of course I care deeply about what’s happening in this country, that’s what I wanted to convey,” he continued.
"I love the Bronx, grew up in the Bronx, and lived here all my life.
"I would not have tried to impose on the Borough President if I didn’t think it was important,” he added.
New York City has been roiled by days of upheaval following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police.
Demonstrations gave way on Monday to a violent night of unfettered looting and destruction.
Earlier Tuesday, The New York Post reported that Engel has failed to repay a controversial $125,000 “mortgage loan” from one of his top campaign donors.
A searing report from The Atlantic published last month found that Engel failed to set foot in his district for nearly two months as it battled one of the largest coronavirus outbreaks in the country.