Herman Badillo was the nation’s first Puerto-Rican congressman, the Bronx borough president, and someone who almost became New York City’s first Hispanic mayor way back in the 1970s. His death at the age of 85 last week was a major event in New York’s Latino community.
Hillary Clinton called his widow, Gail. Former New York mayors David Dinkins and Rudy Giuliani — who have long been bitter rivals — showed up to the funeral to pay their respects. Charlie Rangel, the congressman from Harlem, came, as did the current police commissioner and his immediate predecessor.
But conspicuous by his absence was Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was photographed at noon by the Village Voice working out at the Brooklyn YMCA during the funeral. Earlier in the day he had been a few blocks from the Campbell Funeral Home — where Badillo was honored — doing an interview for ABC’s This Week but left the neighborhood before the funeral. His office sent a deputy commissioner from the city’s Community Affairs Unit instead.
“What a terrible insult,” Gail Badillo told Geraldo Rivera’s radio show. “Not even a phone call.” Later, when she was told the mayor was at the gym she was more pointed, calling his absence “disgraceful.”
“We’ve never been invited to anything at Gracie Mansion, not even during Hispanic Heritage Month,” she said. “To the person who has opened doors for every Hispanic in the city? That’s a snub.”
Unmentioned in the stories about Mayor de Blasio’s absence from the funeral was the fact that Badillo may not have been the kind of minority leader favored by the mayor. Badillo gradually moved from the left to the right, becoming a Republican in the 1990s and even challenging Michael Bloomberg from the right in the 2001 Republican mayoral primary. He wrote an extremely important book on why conservative ideas have relevance for Latinos and showed open disdain for the big-government nostrums of the Left.
No one knows why Mayor de Blasio couldn’t find time in his schedule to honor Badillo, but it is telling that figures at least as liberal as he is — such as David Dinkins and Charlie Rangel — did make the effort.