NEW YORK (AP) — The race for New York City mayor took a heated and personal turn Wednesday when Christine Quinn condemned what she believed was an attack from the wife of rival Bill de Blasio on her ability to solve issues related to women and children.
The hours-long back-and-forth — which included a series of angry emailed statements and a significant correction from The New York Times — culminated in Quinn saying, "No one should comment on my family like it's something that makes me less capable of being an elected official."
Quinn, New York's City Council speaker, is vying to become the city's first female and first openly gay mayor. She and her wife have no children.
The episode, which comes less than three weeks before the primary, erupted after the publication of a column by Maureen Dowd in the Times in which de Blasio's wife, Chirlane McCray, is quoted as speculating that Quinn was not energizing women voters because she's not "accessible."
"She's not the kind of person I feel I can go up to and talk to about issues like taking care of children at a young age and paid sick leave," McCray was quoted as saying.
De Blasio and Quinn clashed over legislation requiring paid sick leave for workers earlier this year. But it was the remark about children that incensed Quinn's campaign.
Her spokesman sent out a statement in which Quinn defended any woman's choice not to have children and said she took "great personal offense" to the comment.
"I have spoken fondly of Ms. McCray and Mr. de Blasio's family," Quinn said in the statement. "It's unfortunate that they cannot do the same about mine — no matter how different it might be from theirs."
A short time later, the de Blasio camp released its own statement insisting that McCray was misquoted. De Blasio campaign manager Bill Hyers accused Quinn's campaign of trying to "distort and confuse" the issue and then released an audio recording and transcript of the original interview.
"I don't see her speaking to the concerns of women who have to take care of children at a young age or send them to school and after school, paid sick days, workplace, she is not speaking to any of those issues," McCray said, according to the recording. "What can I say? And she is not accessible, she is not the kind of person that I feel that you can go up and talk to and have a conversation with about those things, and I suspect that other women feel the same thing I'm feeling."
The Times then changed the column to reflect the actual quote and added a correction. Times spokesman Danielle Rhoads said: "Maureen Dowd realized she had truncated the quote and immediately asked her editors to fix it."
But Quinn, appearing at an unrelated news conference a short time after the correction was published, said she believed "the sentiment is the same" in the new quote.
"The sentiment is really saddening and troubling," she said. "It makes me sad that the political attacks have come to this."
Dowd, speaking to Politico on Wednesday, apologized for the error but said she believed "the substance is the same" in the correct quote.
Despite the historic nature of her bid, Quinn is not the overwhelming choice of female voters, according to several recent polls. Her campaign has taken steps recently to soften her image, having her wear softer colors and toning down her famed temper.
De Blasio, meanwhile, has made his interracial family the center of his campaign. His son, Dante, is the star of his new TV ad. And McCray, who used to identify as a lesbian, is a staple at campaign events.
The primary is Sept. 10. De Blasio and Quinn are currently running first and second in most polls.