Now it can be told: in 2014, New York Mayor de Blasio’s press secretary, Phil Walzak, protested vehemently to the media that de Blasio had not cold-bloodedly murdered the famed Staten Island weather-predicting groundhog.
The brouhaha started after The New York Post reported in September 2014 that the Staten Island Zoo’s groundhog, “Chuck,” had died because de Blasio had dropped the groundhog on its head on February 2 at the Groundhog Day ceremony. The groundhog was found dead in its enclosure at the Staten Island Zoo on February 9.
The Post reported:
Instead of revealing the sad loss, the zoo — which gets nearly half of its $3.5 million in annual funding from the city — told the staff to keep the mayor’s office in the dark about the animal’s fate. They told only a few zoo supporters — but claimed that the groundhog had died of natural causes. “I was told he died of old age, that he went to that big farm in the sky,” said Assemblyman Matthew Titone (D-SI), who later learned how the animal had died.
At the end of September 2014, de Blasio wouldn’t admit he was responsible for the animal’s death, saying, “I’ll refer that to the Staten Island Zoo.”
Sensing the condemnation of his boss that might eventuate from the death of the groundhog, Walzak wrote New York Times editorial-board member Lawrence Downes. “Oh, please how can a reasonable, rational viewer watch that and ignore the squirming and writhing of the animal as it is placed into the mayor’s hands?” He wrote another member of the media, “The only thing I care abt is people saying mayor killed groundhog . . . which is not true!”
The hilarious series of emails between Walzak and the media can be found here.