Engel presses to speak at NY event: 'If I didn't have a primary, I wouldn't care'

Engel presses to speak at NY event: 'If I didn't have a primary, I wouldn't care'
© Greg Nash

Rep. Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelNY Working Families Party director on the state's primary House postpones testimony from key Pompeo aide about IG firing Yvette Clarke wins NY House primary MORE (D-N.Y.) was heard on Tuesday saying, “If I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care,” after he was told not all elected officials gathered for an event to address the Monday night protests in New York might get a chance to speak. 

Engel is heard making the comment as the elected officials huddled ahead of the joint address, according to videos about the event made available by news media, including News 12 in New York.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. can be heard in the video telling elected officials that not all of them would get the chance to speak.

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“I’m going to have somebody from the business community, and a young person. I cannot have all of the elected [officials] talk because then we’d never get out of here,” Diaz told Engel and other officials.

“There’s just too many folks here,” Diaz added.

Engel responded, saying “If I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care.”

“Don’t do that to me. We’re not going to do this,” Diaz responded after asking Engel to repeat himself. “Everybody has a primary.”

Engel said in a statement to The Hill that he asked to speak because he wanted to let his constituents know where he stood on the issues being discussed.

“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,” Engel said. “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.”

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The exchange followed a night of protests, with incidences of violence, in parts of New York City on Monday. Protests have convulsed cities across the country over the death of George Floyd under police custody in Minneapolis.

Engel is preparing to face progressive candidate Jamaal Bowman in New York’s primary on June 23.

Bowman responded to the video on Twitter, calling the exchange “painful to watch.”

“We need to be taking care of our communities right now -- whether it's election season or not,” Bowman said in a tweet.

The progressive field challenging Engel consolidated on Monday after candidate Andom Ghebreghiorgis dropped out and endorsed Bowman.

The primary has garnered increased attention in recent months amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit the 16th congressional district hard. Engel is running for reelection for a 17th term in Congress.