New York|‘Comrade de Blasio’ Enters the Fox News Den to Spar With Sean Hannity
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It began with Sean Hannity introducing Mayor Bill de Blasio as the “far left” mayor, only to offer a better gibe: “Comrade de Blasio.”
For the next 41 minutes — twice as long as planned — Mr. Hannity and the mayor sparred on Mr. Hannity’s show on Fox News on Wednesday night, over everything from immigration and gun control to abortion and meatless Mondays in New York City’s schools.
It was the first time a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate had appeared on the show, “Hannity,” and neither man could contain their apparent glee at the opportunity the appearance afforded them.
For Mr. de Blasio, the visit was a well-calculated risk: He has tried to make the case that the Democrats need someone like him — a New Yorker familiar with President Trump — to regain the White House.
But with the mayor trailing badly in the polls and in fund-raising efforts, and unlikely to qualify for the next round of Democratic debates, he needed to draw attention to his campaign, even if it meant engaging with Mr. Hannity, a close ally of Mr. Trump.
The two rarely saw eye to eye, although they were seated in a way that made it appear that the 6-foot-5 mayor was of similar stature to Mr. Hannity, who is roughly five inches shorter.
Mr. de Blasio sported a sly smile during the entire affair, and seemed to enjoy jousting with Mr. Hannity over issues such as the mayor’s plan to heavily tax the wealthy. “Do you think the money that I’ve saved and earned is in the wrong hands?” Mr. Hannity asked.
“Should anyone be working for less than $15 per hour?” Mr. de Blasio said later in the conversation.
“I don’t like the minimum wage,” Mr. Hannity chimed in.
Mr. Hannity also chided Mr. de Blasio for repeatedly asking him questions. “You see what it says up there? Han-ni-ty. Doesn’t say de Blasio,” he added.
But the mayor refused to be goaded into questions that he did not want to answer. “I just don’t play by your rules,” he told Mr. Hannity during a discussion about whether Americans had the right to own guns.
Mr. Hannity also did not hold back. “I’m never going to agree with you. You drive me crazy and you don’t answer questions, you know — you duck a lot,” he said.
When Mr. Hannity tried to press Mr. de Blasio on gun ownership rights, the mayor shot back: “You are trying to set up a reality where you get to paint a picture on your own terms. It doesn’t work that way.”
And when Mr. Hannity casually mentioned that he had almost become a New York City police officer but did not make it, the mayor responded: “And standards were lower back then.”
Mr. Hannity, stunned, shot back: “That was a jackass comment, but it’s very good.”
That Mr. de Blasio would appear at all on Mr. Hannity’s show is out of line with his strong criticisms of the media properties owned by Rupert Murdoch, such as The New York Post and Fox News.
Mr. de Blasio has called Mr. Murdoch “a right-wing media baron” who wants to “undermine progressive” governments and stir racial divisiveness. “If you could remove News Corp. from the last 25 years of American history, we would be in an entirely different place,” Mr. de Blasio told The Guardian in 2018, referring to one of Mr. Murdoch’s companies.
The mayor continued that message on Wednesday. “Too much of the time, what Fox and News Corp. do is try and take people’s minds off the fact that they are being screwed economically by the 1 percent,” he said.
Then why did he agree to sit down with Mr. Hannity? Mr. de Blasio said he did not want to “stereotype” the “millions and millions” of Americans who watch Fox News.
“A lot of those folks watching are working people who are listening for change in one form or another, and we need to speak to them, too,” Mr. de Blasio said during an interview on Monday on NY1.
Mr. de Blasio is not the only Democratic presidential candidate who has appeared on Fox News. Senators Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and Kirsten Gillibrand and Mayor Pete Buttigieg have done town-hall events or interviews on the network.
Senator Elizabeth Warren has declined to do either, saying that she refused to be part of the network’s “hate-for-profit machine.”
Because of the hyperpartisan nature of Fox News, it was unlikely that Mr. de Blasio would “make a credible appeal” to its audience, said Kevin Driscoll, an assistant professor in the media studies department at the University of Virginia.
The professor said the network helps launder “extremist” sources of information for more “mainstream” audiences, and cautioned that the mayor’s appearance may legitimize Mr. Hannity’s views.
Mr. de Blasio’s campaign spokeswoman, Jaclyn Rothenberg, disagreed. “We went on the show to talk to working people in this country who have been lied to for years by Fox News.”
Both men used Mr. de Blasio’s appearance to make pitches. Mr. Hannity implored other Democratic presidential candidates to come on his show. “It wasn’t that bad,” he said. “We’ll give you a fair shake.”
Mr. de Blasio appealed to potential donors. If he is to make the third Democratic debate, in September, he needs to register higher in polls and rake in many more donors than he has so far.
At times, the two even found common ground.
The Fox News host defended the mayor’s insistence on taking a sport-utility vehicle 11 miles to Brooklyn from Gracie Mansion, in Manhattan, to use his regular gym — a routine that has invited frequent criticism.
“You have every right to go to Brooklyn eight miles away to do your stupid workout,” Mr. Hannity said. “I’m defending you.”
Mr. Hannity also praised the mayor for a Twitter post about meatless Mondays, in which he said the program was a good idea “because our students love it and @SeanHannity hates it.”
“It’s actually pretty funny,” Mr. Hannity said.
The mayor responded, “It’s a quality tweet.”