In a “tense and sometimes fiery” candidates’ forum Monday night, Charlie Rangel shared the stage with his five challengers at a Baptist church in the center of his Harlem district. As expected, the 80-year-old representative was subject to barbs from the other candidates relating to the thirteen charges of ethical violations struck down by a House panel last month. His most prominent competitor, Adam Clayton Powell IV, accused him of “years and years of corruption,” calling his transgressions a “slap in the face to his community.” He went on to creatively refer to Rangel as a rotting tree.
“To have good fruit, you must have a healthy tree,” he said. “We no longer have a healthy tree, and we will no longer have good fruit.”
Rangel was also asked about the president’s claim three weeks ago that he should retire to “end his career with dignity.”
“Frankly, he has not been around long enough to determine what my dignity is,” Rangel said of Obama. “For the next two years, I will be more likely to protect his dignity.”
Rangel, whom the Times says “fidgeted in his chair and fingered some papers” during the more heated critiques, responded with his “typical sarcasm and combativeness” to his competitors’ queries. The one source of consolation for Charlie: The crowd apparently featured a good portion of Rangel supporters, many of whom reportedly “swarmed” around him after the conclusion of the forum to show their support.