Friday, April 15, 2011

Snow Job? Is Bloomberg, Under Oath, Actually Criticizing His Own Work Ethic?

It is almost as if the rules for New York Times reporters writing about Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg are specially laid out in a secret style manual- - The paper has gotten into an infuriating habit: It strolls to the very brink of making a connection that, if overtly expressed, would be an obvious insult to the Mayor. Then, instead of making that connection, as if out of polite deference, it stops just short but furnishes enough of a hint or innuendo such that those who read political news carefully and consistently and with a certain amount of recollection can make the connection themselves. Others will find things sailing over their heads.

An example is in today’s paper in the Times story about Bloomberg’s grouchily sarcastic demeanor when being deposed in the federal discrimination lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against his Bloomberg L.P. media conglomerate. (See: Mayor Shows His Testy Side in Deposition for a Lawsuit, by David W. Chen, April 14, 2011.) The story was on the verge of a spectacular closer after covering Bloomberg’s testimony about his conglomerate’s hostility towards their female employees who take maternity leave or are interested in working from home. (Alternately, Bloomberg thinks that if women instead go to work for a more understanding competitor they are traitors.) The Times got so close and then shied away from concluding with the really stinging observation that could have had everyone talking.

Here is the button the Times opted for instead:
Still, one line in Mr. Bloomberg’s testimony sounds prescient, given the mayor’s recent experiences with winter weather.

When asked about whether he felt that working from home made “good business sense,” Mr. Bloomberg said no, then added, “I’m sure we made exceptions if somebody had a physical problem or there was a snowstorm and they couldn’t get to work or something like that.”
That reference to Bloomberg’s mismanaged snowstorm handling may sound unflattering enough in itself. However, who but the most astute cognoscenti amongst the Times readers are going to remember that part of the issue riling the public during the snowstorm was that Bloomberg himself was `phoning it in,’ working not so much “from home” but from his vacation-spot, extra home in Bermuda (or the private plane he uses for his regular Friday commutes to the island).

Bloomberg defended his phoning it in this way back in January:
"The important thing is you are in communication. I not only have my cell phone, you have a police detail with you with all sorts of communications all the time. And to the best of my recollection in nine years there has never been a time when you couldn't communicate"
(See: As Storm Approaches, Bloomberg Says He is in Charge of City, Wherever He is, by David Freedlander, January 11, 2011.)

For more about Bloomberg phoning it in during the snowstorm see: Mayoral Sign-Out Sheet? Secretive Jaunts Spur a Thought, by Michael Barbaro, February 6, 2011. That earlier Times article tells you everything necessary to piece together the fact that Public Advocate Bill de Blasio almost certainly became, as a formal legal matter, the acting mayor while Bloomberg and his deputy mayors were away during the storm but that nobody ever informed de Blasio or anyone else of that fact. Once again, it’s all there in the Times write up, but again, only a careful and knowledgeable Times reader is going to pick up this astonishing tidbit given the polite deference with which the information is presented.

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