NEW YORK CITY — Reporters are granted two questions during daily novel coronavirus press briefings with the New York City mayor and, on Wednesday, one journalist used both of hers to quiz Bill de Blasio about his grasp of reality.
“More and more at these briefings you’ve challenged the premise of questions posed to you by some of the biggest new outlets in this city,” New York Post reporter Julia Marsh said. “Insisting there’s a fallacy in the very question rather than answering directly."
“Do you think you that maybe you have a very different perception of reality in this city than most New Yorkers?“
De Blasio, who has faced mounting criticism over the NYPD — recently seen hurling a protester into an unmarked van — and handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, was forced to reply that he did have a grasp of reality.
“I’ve been in public life 20 years nonstop in this city, all over the neighborhoods of this city, talking to people, listening to people, watching their lives,” de Blasio said. “I have a perception of life in this city ‘cause I’ve spent so much time with my fellow New Yorkers.”
Retorted Marsh, “That’s actually exactly what journalists do.”
Marsh — who noted reporters from The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and WNYC have had questions challenged by him — was not the only reporter Wednesday to ask de Blasio about his administrations’ relationship with the press, or to receive sharp replies.
A journalist quizzed the mayor about challenged reports from NYPD that the young woman thrown into the van had been throwing rocks, which a City Hall press officer released to reporters.
The reporter asked why the mayor's office shared an NYPD statement that was later disputed - that the protester had thrown rocks - given other police reports had proven false, among them that a Shake Shake worker had tried to poison cops.
“Respectfully, here I’ll challenge a premise,” de Blasio said. “I’m not ever going to say here if it’s coming from a city agency it’s perfect.”
Another journalist requested a response to the New York Times report on the city’s Test and Trace program, which employees told the paper was a "disaster.”
“It’s ridiculous,” de Blasio responded. “They’re always going to find some individual employees that have a gripe.”
The same reporter, Rich Lamb of WCBS, then tried to find out more about the future of the “Bridge Year” program that provides college courses to public high school students.
“There’s a lot of different pieces at the Department of Education,” de Blasio. “So I’ll be honest with you, I need to check on the status.”
As the press briefing concluded, a Bloomberg reporter asked de Blasio to defend his initiatives to enact more progressive police policies in the face of the van video many New Yorkers found to be deeply disturbing.
“How do you explain that this could happen?” the reporter asked.
“It’s a very very fair question,” de Blasio replied. “I like the question because it allows me to give you perspective.”