New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio gave an unannounced speech to AIPAC representatives last night at Manhattan’s Hilton Hotel. The event was closed to the press, though a Capital New York reporter managed to record the mayor’s speech before being escorted out of the room by security. And just like that, a fairly routine speech has taken on a slightly scandalous air. All because the group’s insistence on exclusivity and closed meetings made this speech seem just a little bit, well, secretive.
Contrary to what it might seem like, de Blasio didn’t actually say anything new, or even particularly interesting. “There is a philosophical grounding to my belief in Israel and it is my belief, it is our obligation, to defend Israel, but it is also something that is elemental to being an American because there is no greater ally on earth, and that’s something we can say proudly,” de Blasio told the crowd, according to Capital. It was hardly Mitt Romney’s 47 percent gaffe. He’s said most of this stuff before, and in public. His pro-Israel stance is hardly a secret. In fact it’s not a secret at all.
Today de Blasio was questioned by reporters about his purported commitment to transparency. “Now, the truth is that the event sponsors, whatever the event is, have a right to set the ground rules,” de Blasio told Politicker. “And AIPAC believed–not because of me, but because of all the people speaking there–that they wanted to have the event they wanted to have the way they wanted to have it and it was a closed-press event. There are many events in this town that are closed-press events.”
Why AIPAC felt the need to keep an event featuring the brand new mayor of New York City closed to press is the nagging question, especially given that de Blasio’s views on Israel are of legitimate interest to a large portion of the population he now represents. Didn’t they expect that some people outside the room might be curious—we are!—and that the private nature of the meeting might rub others the wrong way? It seems like we’d all be reporting on a fairly uneventful speech had we only been allowed inside the room. We might not even be talking about it at all.
Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.