Eric Adams, the Brooklyn Borough president and ex-cop who has surpassed Andrew Yang to become the front-runner in the New York City mayoral race (whose Democratic Party primary takes place June 22), is looking like a victim of bad journalism by Politico this week. Politico New York‘s would-be hit piece questioning Adams’s residency status took a startling turn when it revealed that it was produced in collusion with Adams’s mayoral rivals. “POLITICO and sources on rival campaigns observed him arriving at the government building close to midnight four nights in a row last week and several nights the week prior,” the site’s story noted on Tuesday. (Emphasis mine.)
Huh? Is this normal procedure for Politico, to work with this or that political campaign in service of taking out a leading political figure? Political reporters take tips from oppo researchers all the time, but they then seek to verify the rumors independently. They don’t normally join forces with one campaign to destroy another.
I suspect that Yang’s team is behind this farcical last-minute oppo-research gambit attempting to suggest that Adams secretly lives in New Jersey. As Adams has previously stated, he owns a condo in Fort Lee, right across the river from upper Manhattan, and his girlfriend lives there. Adams owns several New York City properties, some of which he rents out for income, and has cited different addresses on different public records.
The Politico story suggests that its reporters and rival oppo researchers worked together to put a tail on Adams for two weeks but discovered only the following: that he often sleeps in his office, which is Brooklyn Borough Hall. That’s a little odd, but then again Adams said last March that he was effectively living there because he was working on COVID battle plans. Adams this week invited reporters to take a look around what he says is his main residence, an apartment in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. Also in recent days he introduced reporters to his 26-year-old son, whose existence he said he had kept secret from fellow officers when he was a cop. That’s a little odd, too; Adams cited privacy concerns for the younger man.
So Adams is, like pretty much every other previous mayor, a bit of an odd duck. But here’s the thing: Nobody has produced any evidence that he actually lives in New Jersey. Yang squawked the other day that if Adams has nothing to hide, he should produce the records for the EZ Pass toll-registering gizmo on his city-owned car. Adams duly produced the records, which show that he has triggered New Jersey tolls eleven times in the last year. If he were actually living in New Jersey he could ring up that many hits in a week. The New York Times (which has endorsed another mayoral candidate, Kathryn Garcia), sent nine reporters out on the story, and also came up with nothing. It weakly reported “Mr. Adams has done at least seven web appearances from the Fort Lee apartment between April 2020 and February of this year, according to research by a rival campaign.” Again, huh? Political reporters are supposed to independently verify oppo research, not simply pass it along as fact. Anyway, Adams countered that he had done more than 100 such forums. He has never denied spending time in New Jersey. As Brooklyn Borough president, he obviously pays taxes as a New York City resident. New Yorkers, even mayoral candidates, are allowed to leave the state. It isn’t a prison.
Did Yang then shut up this ginned-up controversy? No, because at a debate last night the moderator reframed the “issue,” if you can call it that, as a question of belief: “Do you believe Eric Adams lives in New York City?” Yang said he didn’t. Who cares what Yang believes? If neither he nor anyone else can produce any evidence that Adams lives in New Jersey, he should stop talking about it, and the press should also.
Politico could go one better by admitting it had nothing on Adams and therefore shouldn’t have published its wild-goose chase report on Tuesday, but I won’t hold my breath for that. In the meantime, I await Politico‘s explanation of the circumstances under which it considers it appropriate to turn its reporters into allies of partisan political campaigns, and I await the New York Times‘s explanation of whether or not its reporters are required to independently verify rumors provided to it by political campaigners.