Republican mayoral hopeful John Catsimatidis Saturday seconded Mayor Michael Bloomberg's views about Bill de Blasio's use of his multiracial family in campaign ads, suggesting that -- and de Blasio's name change -- were long-planned political calculations.
Catsimatidis' chief opponent in Tuesday's GOP primary, Joe Lhota, declined to comment on the mayor's remarks, made to New York magazine. Lhota has said he will seek Bloomberg's endorsement for the general election.
Bloomberg, in interviews posted online by the magazine Saturday, called de Blasio's campaign "class warfare and racist." The questioner asked "Racist?" and then Bloomberg said, "Well, no, no, I mean he's making an appeal using his family to gain support."
Catsimatidis, at a Manhattan event marking his 65th birthday, said of de Blasio's TV ads:
"I think he featured his son being black, so one has to ask, as a cynical voter myself, if I wasn't running, one would have to ask, 'Is this a preplanned situation for the last five years, 10 years?' "
De Blasio is white and his wife, Chirlane McCray, is African-American and has also played a very visible role in his campaign. De Blasio has soared to front-runner status in polls since he made ads with their son, Dante, 16, criticizing the NYPD's stop-and-frisk tactic.
Catsimatidis added: "I think he is trying to appeal to the black vote. But look, I'm trying to appeal to the black vote. I have no problem with that."
Catsimatidis, a billionaire supermarket and oil magnate trailing badly in recent polls, went on to discuss de Blasio's name change. Born Warren Wilhelm Jr., into a family that split apart when he was a youngster, de Blasio took his mother's surname as an adult and legally changed his name a dozen years ago.
"Bill does what he has to do," Catsimatidis said. "He changed his name from a name that he thought he couldn't win with, to an Italian name."
De Blasio later responded, "It's the silly season, my friends."
Long-shot Republican George McDonald said Bloomberg wasn't wrong.
"Mayor Bloomberg will never win an award for political correctness, but his critique of the de Blasio campaign, while inartful, is fundamentally accurate," McDonald said in a statement.
He added that the de Blasios are "a beautiful family that is a wonderful, modern mosaic of the American dream we share."