The Many Unconvincing Excuses for Not Attending Charlie Rangel’s Birthday Party

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Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Even though his 80th birthday was June 11, Harlem congressman Charlie Rangel is only getting around to celebrating it next week with a lavish bash (and fund-raiser) in the main ballroom at the Plaza Hotel. Under normal circumstances, you would expect that guests would have to have some kind of extremely important conflict for them not to attend, as Rangel has been a mainstay in New York's political establishment for decades, and this is a huge milestone for him. But these are not normal circumstances. With an ethics trial looming, Rangel has become politically toxic for some particularly skittish pols. And that means you don't need a convincing reason not to attend his party. You just need an excuse.

And boy, are these excuses terrible. No classic bad excuses have been left behind. There's "unavoidably out-of-town" excuse:


[Congresswoman Carolyn] Maloney let it be known she would not attend, citing a family commitment in Virginia. “I wish I could be at his birthday party,” Ms. Maloney said in an interview, adding that her plans to skip the event had nothing to do with the ethics charges....

When asked why he would not attend, Representative Michael E. McMahon of Staten Island, a freshman Democrat in a conservative-leaning district that Republicans are eyeing, responded: “All I am saying is I sent my regrets and I will be out of town. That’s my answer.”

There's the less convincing "out-of-town but still right next to town" excuse:


Representative Edolphus Towns, a Brooklyn Democrat, will be just across the border, at a fund-raiser in Connecticut, but aides said it would be impossible for him to make it back in time.

There's the "I have to go to this parade" excuse:


[Congressman John D. Hall] said he would appear at a high-profile event in his district that day: the Fire Department parade in South Salem, a hamlet of 7,000 people.

“It’s too bad the party is scheduled for the same day of the parade,” Mr. Hall said. “This was scheduled way in advance.”

There's the vaguely very busy excuse:


“My August days and nights are just jammed,” [Congressman Anthony Weiner] said. “I will do everything I can to get there.”

And of course, there's the old "I broke my ribs" excuse:


Legendary songstress Aretha Franklin — who hastily scrubbed two free Brooklyn shows on Tuesday citing an unspecified injury — finally put out a statement this morning that explained that she suffered fractured ribs and pain in the abdomen due to a fall on Sunday.

The accident occurred just in time for Franklin to also have a convenient excuse to skip Rep. Charlie Rangel’s 80th birthday party at The Plaza on Aug. 11.

Okay, we doubt that Aretha faked her injury just to miss Rangel's party. The Queen of Soul does not need to worry about elections. Coups, yes — but not elections.

Guest List for Rangel’s Birthday Celebration Shrinks [NYT]