“Rep. Eliot Engel caught on hot mic saying he doesn’t care about looting”
June 2, 2020 | 4:38pm
NY Rep. Eliot Engel, the 16-term Democratic congressman who was largely missing in action as his Bronx district was ravaged by the coronavirus, returned on Tuesday — only to declare he didn’t really care about the looting rocking his constituents.
The Bronx-Westchester lawmaker, 73, was at a press conference with local leaders and elected officials when he asked Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. if he could make some remarks at the microphone.
When Diaz Jr. said there were too many people on the list, Engel mumbled 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 captured on a News 12 live feed of the event and 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.
The veteran lawmaker is facing an intense primary battle later this month in New York’s 16th congressional district from Jamaal Bowman, a 44-year-old former middle school principal backed by the Justice Democrats.
Political pundits fear Engel is setting himself up to be the next Joe Crowley, the longtime powerful incumbent who was defeated by Alexandria 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. I love the Bronx, grew up in the Bronx and lived here all my life,” he continued.
“I would not have tried to impose on the Borough President if I didn’t think it was important,” he added.
The Big Apple has been roiled by days of upheaval following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police — demonstrations giving way on Monday to a violent night of unfettered looting and destruction.
Earlier Tuesday, The 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.
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