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Hot Mic: Dem Congressman Begs To Speak At New York Press Conference, Gets Shut Down
Representative Eliot Engel, a Democrat from New York, speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020. President Donald Trump's lawyers finished presenting his defense on Tuesday, their third day of arguments in the Senate impeachment trial. The next phase, 16 total hours of senators' questions for both sides, will begin Wednesday.
Stefani Reynolds / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sixteen-term Democratic Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was caught on a hot-mic Tuesday begging a local event organizer to let him speak at a press conference about vandalism in New York City in the wake of George Floyd’s death. 

During the brief exchange, Engel can be seen talking to an event organizer, who tries to explain that there’s too many people lined-up to speak, according to The New York Times

“If I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care,” Engel told the organizer, who asked him to repeat himself, prompting the congressman to say it again: “If I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care.”

“Don’t do that to me, we’re not going to do this,” the organizer told Engel in response to his begging. The Times reported that the event organizer also added: “Everybody has a primary, you know that.”

In a statement to the Times, Engel explained his request as an important factor to help constituents know where he stands on political issues that affect New Yorkers. 

“In the context of running for re-election, I thought it was important for people to know where I stand, that’s why I asked to speak,” said Engel, who has served in Congress since the late 80s. “Of course I care deeply about what’s happening in this country, that’s what I wanted to convey. I love the Bronx, grew up in the Bronx and lived here all my life. I would not have tried to impose on the borough president if I didn’t think it was important.”

Jamaal Bowman, who has lobbied a significant primary challenge against Engel, told Politico that the congressman’s hot-mic moment was “disgusting, it’s abhorrent, it’s unfortunate, and it’s disappointing, but it’s not surprising.”

“It just exemplifies and shows everything we already knew,” he said. “To say if I didn’t have a primary I wouldn’t care, it captures everything not just wrong with him but the political system.”

According to The Atlantic Magazine, Engel has been drawing criticism for the lack of presence in his district, and tried to tell the magazine that he was quarantined in two places at once, but his communications director said he hadn’t been to New York since March:

“I’m in both places,” Engel said.

“You are?” I asked.

“I sure am,” he said.

“You’ve been quarantined in both places?”

“Sure have.”

Former Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY), the former chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, was ousted in Engel’s neighboring district in 2018 by primary challenger Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

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