Rep. Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat, was caught on a hot mic telling Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz that he “wouldn’t care” about speaking at a Tuesday news conference about protests against police brutality if he wasn’t facing a primary challenge.
Diaz, who helped lead the press briefing, is heard telling Engel that there was a long list of speakers and suggesting there were “too many folks” who wanted to talk.
“If I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care,” Engel said, in footage taken by News 12 the Bronx.
“Don’t do that to me,” Diaz responded.
!!! @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.”Diaz responds, “Don’t do that to me.”(h/t @News12BX livestream) pic.twitter.com/eQnkzLiEId
— Emily Ngo (@emilyngo) June 2, 2020
Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is facing his first strong primary challenge in 20 years from Jamaal Bowman, a progressive former Bronx middle school principal.
The congressman responded to criticism over his Tuesday remarks in a statement arguing that it’s particularly important for constituents to know where he stands on the protests given that he’s up for re-election.
“In the contex of running for re-election, I thought it was important for people to know where I stand, that’s why I asked to speak,” Engel said. “Of course I care deeply about what’s happening in this country, that’s what I wanted to convey.”
And here’s Engel’s response to the hot-mic comments … https://t.co/NW3kHFU4wd pic.twitter.com/28PXcQa0Ld
— Ben Siegel (@benyc) June 2, 2020
On Monday, another of Engel’s primary challengers, Adam Ghebreghiorgis, dropped out of the race and endorsed Bowman — a move that could help consolidate support against the incumbent.
Bowman attacked Engel over his comments on Tuesday, writing on Twitter that Engel’s remarks were “so incredibly painful to watch.”
“We need to be taking care of our communities right now — whether it’s election season or not,” he tweeted.
Engel, who’s represented NY-16 since 1989, has faced scrutiny for remaining in his home outside of Washington for much of the pandemic, even while his Bronx district has been ravaged by the coronavirus.
This is so incredibly painful to watch from @RepEliotEngel. It hurts. We need to be taking care of our communities right now — whether it’s election season or not. It’s clear that we need new leadership in #NY16. https://t.co/0XBcKqxVrh
— Jamaal Bowman (@JamaalBowmanNY) June 2, 2020
SEE ALSO: Joe Biden calls Black Lives Matter protests a ‘wake up call for our nation’ and slams Trump for tear gassing peaceful demonstrators
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