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Critics Slam De Blasio After He Refuses To Take Questions About Midtown Stabbing

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio was under fire late Friday, a day after he refused to answer questions about topics important to New Yorkers.

As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, de Blasio has now invited comparisons to some of his least favorite people.

De Blasio was asked about his limiting of off-topic question on his weekly radio appearance Friday.

"The City Hall reporters are frustrated in general that you take questions on topics not of your own choosing less than your predecessor – you're less transparent to the public in that way," host Brian Lehrer asked de Blasio Friday during the "Ask the Mayor" segment on WNYC's "The Brian Lehrer Show."

"I disagree with that characterization. It's a perfectly fair question, but I disagree with your characterization," de Blasio said.

The mayor said he holds weekly open-format interviews with Lehrer and with Errol Lewis on NY1, and he holds at least one open-format news conference per week. He said he has also held news conferences on numerous specific topics through the week.

"I think there's plenty of transparency," de Blasio said on the program.

De Blasio defended his refusal answer reporters' questions about a racially-motivated hate crime in Midtown because it was not the one day a week when he entertains topics not of his own choosing.

The mayor was only taking on-topic questions Thursday about his selected top of the day – his quest to get Albany to approve his last call for a tax hike on the wealthy. But reporters asked de Blasio about his reaction about the stunning crime allegations – in which suspect James Harris Jackson, 28, is accused of stabbing Timothy Caughman, 66, to death in Midtown and admitting that he wanted to kill black people.

"I'm here to talk about this. If you want to ask question about this, I'm here to talk about this," de Blasio said. "If you want to talk about this, great. If not we'll take questions another way, another time.

The mayor did discuss the Midtown attack on "The Brian Lehrer Show."

"This is domestic racist terrorism. There's no question. It is the equivalent of what happened in Charleston at the church, which was one of the most horrible incidents that's occurred in this nation in many years – a racially-motivated incident of domestic terrorism," de Blasio said.

But he also said the purpose of his Thursday news conference was to talk about one specific issue.

"I've been in front of the media every day. Yesterday, I made clear that we wanted to talk about the mansion tax," de Blasio said. "The reporters didn't have a single question about a tax on the wealthy that would help 25,000 senior citizens. If they're more interested in other matters, that's their prerogative. But I was holding a discussion on the mansion tax."

Multiple pundits and other elected officials took de Blasio to task for refusing to answer questions. Political consultant Hank Sheinkopf said the mayor's actions are simply un-New York.

"Determining how reporters should act, and what they should ask, and when they should ask – it is absolutely; it's not what we do in New York," Sheinkopf said. "That's not how we do things."

De Blasio's conduct also invited comparisons to other mayors, who never seemed to invoke the one-day-a-week rule – even when the questions were personally painful.

Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was open back on March 10, 2000, when he was questioned about the end of his marriage to Donna Hanover.

"Of course it's damaging and painful, and very, very difficult," de Blasio said at the time. "But you have to deal with it honestly and directly. You can't –- you can't pretend or hide."

And while the mayor ducked several off-topic questions on Thursday, the subject he did not address that really irked people was the Midtown stabbing.

"As the mayor of the city of New York, you have eight and a half million constituents who are actually crying out for leadership in that moment," said Queens City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-26th). "So to stand on ceremony and not take the question, and not answer the question, is outrageous."

"I think there was a mistake in not responding to that question that was asked specifically to help reassure us," said Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-45th). "We should be responded to."

Van Bramer continued, "It's really a dereliction of duty."

In addition to his comments on the radio Friday, the Mayor's office also issued a statement Wednesday calling the Midtown stabbing "an unspeakable human tragedy."

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