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De Blasio gets message out in radio, TV interviews

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio holds a

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio holds a press conference on Feb, 3, 2014. Credit: John Roca

Mayor Bill de Blasio in a radio interview Monday said his pursuit of fair wages and other "corrective actions" to help close the wealth gap in New York City are part of an agenda he wishes could be implemented on a national scale.

Appearing on WNYC-FM's "The Brian Lehrer Show," he listed a bill to expand paid sick leave and a proposal to beef up "living wage" protections as among efforts "locally to try to do what I wish was being done nationally in a coherent way to restore the middle class."

De Blasio said he would introduce more measures to combat income inequality in his State of the City speech, set for Monday. The city will set a new standard and "then challenge other jurisdictions to meet it," he said.

Later, the mayor had a few laughs and serious moments during an appearance on "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart."

Stewart asked about concerns the city will return to a time "when it was less orderly and things were more chaotic."

De Blasio answered, "Whenever you see progressive leaders come into office, that charge is thrown in one way or another. . . . The bottom line is, we know the great threat to this country is inequality."

Stewart also poked fun at snow removal efforts that two weeks ago were criticized as botched on the tony Upper East Side. In the mock newscast, de Blasio's home borough of Brooklyn was portrayed as a beach scene while the Upper East Side remained buried in snow.

Stewart declared that it never snowed in the 12 years under Michael Bloomberg.

"I think he paid the right guy. I mean, he had the money," de Blasio joked.

Stewart also served pizza to de Blasio, who was mocked for eating pizza last month with utensils as he said Italians do.

"As mayor of Napoli -- I mean New York City -- we are always ready for our pizza," the mayor said, pulling a fork and knife from inside his jacket.

Stewart also suggested that de Blasio redecorated City Hall with socialist and communist posters. The mayor good-naturedly responded, "The Che Guevara posters are very popular, they really are."

The Democrat and self-described progressive in his first month in office has struck a deal with City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito on expanding paid sick leave and taken steps to settle a stop-and-frisk lawsuit by agreeing to judge-ordered reforms.

He said on the radio broadcast that such measures would not scare residents and businesses from the city and he credited Bloomberg with diversifying the economy enough to withstand changes.

"We have a strong hand to play, and given just the power of our market, given just the spending power of the city, a lot of companies need to be here," he said.De Blasio also was asked about a speech he delivered late last month to a meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that was not listed on his public schedule.

He reiterated that he is "unabashedly pro-Israel."

"That doesn't mean I agree with every policy of the Israeli government at any given moment, of course," de Blasio said, adding that it is "incumbent upon me to defend the state of Israel in the context of a very hostile world."


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