October 20, 2021
John Berman: Breaking this morning, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio enacting a sweeping new policy that will require all City employees to get vaccinated against COVID by the end of the month. And that includes firefighters and police officers. Joining us now, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Mr. Mayor, thank you very much. I said all – there's different timing on some City employees here, but basically, you're making all City employees get vaccinated. Tell me about this.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: You know, John, my job is to keep New Yorkers safe, and the vaccine is what does it. The vaccine is what has allowed us to fight back against COVID and save tens of thousands of lives. And there's still a lot of City employees who are not vaccinated. I want to protect them. I want to protect their families. I want to protect all the people that they come in contact within this city. And look, law enforcement has borne the brunt of COVID. In this nation in the last two years, 460 law enforcement officers have been lost to COVID. We've got to protect them. This vaccine mandate allows us to do that.
Berman: Looking at the figures, about 70 percent vaccination rate among New York City police officers and people who work with police. 30 percent unvaccinated, that's a large number, but you say you need to get the shot within the month.
Mayor: The City employees not yet vaccinated, we think about 46,000 is the number. That's a lot of people, and think about their families, think about everyone they come in contact with. Look, we're fighting this war against COVID still, let's not kid ourselves. And the difference now, if we get people vaccinated, we're going to save tens of thousands of lives. If we don't, we're going to lose a lot of people who could have been saved and we're not going to get out of this morass. So, from my point of view, I want to see everyone safe, and I know vaccination works. I know it. And every time we put a mandate in place it's worked. Our teachers and our school employees, 96 percent now vaccinated. Our health care workers, 96 percent vaccinated. The mandates work. And I'll tell you something, every mayor in America, every governor, every CEO of a company should do the same thing so we can end the COVID era.
Berman: And I'm not arguing at all, you had enormous success in getting more people vaccinated with these mandates, you mentioned teachers and health care workers, but police officers – look at what's happening in Chicago. And again, you're at 70 percent now, can you afford not to have 10 or 15 percent of the police force not available?
Mayor: I don't think that's what's going to happen, John. I really don't. We're saying to our officers, we need to protect everyone, here's a fair rule. For months and months, purely voluntary. Then we said, get vaccinated or get tested. We tried that for a while. It helped, it didn't get us far enough. Now we say here's a mandate. We're giving them an extra financial incentive, by the way, an additional $500 per person to get vaccinated. That's helpful. But we're saying, get vaccinated, stay on the force, help us, help lead us out of the COVID era. We're asking our public servants and our first responders to do what they do best, lead us forward, help us out of the COVID era. If they choose not to, they go on unpaid leave. They have a chance to correct. Here's an interesting fact, in our schools, 3,500 employees who originally said, ‘nope, I'm not getting vaccinated,’ in the last two weeks they've come back, got vaccinated, resumed work, because going without a paycheck is a burden, but we would love people to get it right the first time or if they don't, fix it, come back.
Berman: I want to ask you a question about a Department of Investigations investigation into you and your presidential campaign run. The DOI said that you basically owe the City more than $300,000 for use of the police force and security. The report says, “DOI determined that the City of New York expended $319,000 for members of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s security detail to travel on the Mayor's presidential campaign trips. The Mayor has not reimbursed the City for these expenses either personally or through his campaign.”
Mayor: Look, I put an appeal in, earlier this year, and said every mayor in the history of New York City who's gotten police coverage, went all over the country, did political work, government work, whatever they got police coverage. They were never asked, in fact, to have to pay for any of it. The notion – the mayor of New York City is obviously one of the most prominent public officials in America. We're in a very tough moment in our history, whether it's terrorism or political violence. The NYPD has said to me, it is crucial to have coverage at all times. They've never said, well, you have to pay for coverage in certain situations. So, I put in the appeal and said, could we get this rule straight and clear? Because historically it's always been, the first question is how to protect a public servant and their family. We're going to find out what happens there. I'll follow the law, whatever the final decision is –
Berman: I don't think there’s any question that a public servant and the family in this case needs protection at times, the question is, is it inappropriate at times? For instance, the reports suggest that a security detail went with your son to do common errands.
Mayor: The security team – and I listen to the NYPD – they set the rules. They said, whenever we can cover him, we want to cover him. He was very prominent himself. He was very well-known. They said, we need to protect the whole family, whenever the younger people in the family will accept security coverage, we want them to. And that's the decision of the NYPD. And really what this report missed is what was the understanding the NYPD had of security – why did they set the rules they set? The top officials, the top security official for the NYPD was not even interviewed for the report, which I don't understand. I don't think it's fair or accurate to not talk to the security experts in making the determinations [inaudible] –
Berman: If the appeal finds – says you have to pay, will you pay?
Mayor: Of course, I'll follow the law.
Berman: A statue of Thomas Jefferson is being removed from City Hall. This is not your decision.
Mayor: No –
Berman: To be clear.
Mayor: Yes. I'm glad you clarified.
Berman: Do you approve of the decision?
Mayor: I have very mixed feelings, and I want to be honest about it. Thomas Jefferson, one of the greatest figures in American history, and one of the people who created a lot of the values we live by and still cherish. On the other hand, he did something that he knew at the time was wrong. He was a slave owner. That's unacceptable on the measures of today, but even back then many people understood it was a moral sin. So, for folks who say they have mixed feelings about him, I understand that. Our City Council felt they didn't want that image in their chambers or near their chambers. They wanted something else. There's lots of great New Yorkers that can be honored in that space. But as we come to an understanding of our history, we got to be able to say, someone did something great and someone did something wrong at the same time, we got to have that honesty.
Berman: And not a decision you would've made?
Mayor: Look, I honor his larger contributions. I'm troubled by that part, of course, of his history. And he was too. And we now know he knew it was wrong to own slaves, but I do respect that the City Council has a right to say what works for them, you know, in their chambers.
Berman: Mayor Bill de Blasio, thanks for being with us. Appreciate it.
Mayor: Thank you.