De Blasio 2008: I Was 'Ashamed' of Welcoming Robert Mugabe

By the time Robert Mugabe visited New York’s City Hall in 2002, he was already well into his campaign of terror and murder in Zimbabwe. His regime was torturing its opponents brutally–with the help of a recently-deceased man who embraced the nickname “Hitler”–and cracking down on the media as it pushed white farmers off their land, destroying the country’s economy and plunging it into hyperinflation and starvation.

New York City councilman Bill de Blasio, now the Democratic Party nominee for mayor, was there to welcome Mugabe with a group of like-minded left-wingers. As John Sexton pointed out recently, citing the New York Post, de Blasio later admitted his participation had been a “mistake” and that he felt “ashamed” of it. But his colleagues felt few such reservations, and even slammed the Zimbabwean opposition.

In 2008, the New York Times looked back on the Mugabe visit. The organizer, Charles Barron–a radical antisemite and former Black Panther–felt no qualms at all:

Given all that, might Mr. Barron harbor second thoughts about having brought Mr. Mugabe into City Hall?

“Absolutely not,” the councilman said.

“Does he do things that I disagree with? Yes,” Mr. Barron said. But he clearly still regards Mr. Mugabe as a liberator more than an oppressor. “You didn’t care about black Africans when whites were killing them in Rhodesia,” he said. As he sees it, the real reason that Mr. Mugabe has come under strong attack from the West is the confiscation of white-owned farms.

As for de Blasio, he pleaded ignorance–or nostalgia:

The last word here will go to a repentant Bill de Blasio, a Brooklyn councilman who went to the reception. He should have known better, he says.

He was trapped in “a time warp,” wanting to meet a man who had been “one of the more prominent liberation leaders in Africa,” Mr. de Blasio said. But “even based on the information we had six years ago, there was sufficient information to not have him in our chambers.”

It was “a mistake,” he said, and now “I feel ashamed of it.”

He is not ashamed of his support for the Sandinistas in Nicaragua–though there, too, he came to a belated realization that they were not the saints he imagined them to be. 

Normally such naïveté would be forgivable in a city leader. But the mayor of New York is a global figure, as we are reminded every year at this time, when the world’s leaders descend on Manhattan for the opening of the United Nations. And over the past two decades, when New York has had to grapple with the challenge of international terrorism, the prospect of the city being led by a man who failed to acknowledge or inform himself about the terror committed by his ideological heroes is chilling.


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