Maureen Dowd’s Frankenstein Quote Gave Christine Quinn a Temporary Opening on de Blasio

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Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Christine Quinn won herself some headlines this morning by expressing outrage at Chirlane McCray, the wife of her suddenly viable mayoral rival Bill de Blasio, for her remarks about families in a Mauren Dowd column. McCray, as quoted, said Quinn is "not accessible ... She's not the kind of person I feel I can go up to and talk to about issues like taking care of children at a young age and paid sick leave," giving Quinn the opportunity to take umbrage at a perceived slight for being a childless lesbian. "[To] criticize me as not understanding what young families go through because I might not have children is over the line," she said.

But if the counterattack already seemed like a stretch, some of the blame can go to Dowd for stitching together McCray's full quote in a way that left it open to an offensive interpretation.

In audio of the interview released by the de Blasio campaign, McCray said, "Well, I am a woman, and she is not speaking to the issues I care about, and I think a lot of women feel the same way. I don't see her speaking to the concerns of women who have to take care of children at a young age or send them to school and after school, paid sick days, workplace; she is not speaking to any of those issues. What can I say? And she's not accessible, she's not the kind of person that, I feel, that you can go up and talk to and have a conversation with about those things. And I suspect that other women feel the same thing I'm feeling."

The full context feels much less personal. (And it's not Dowd's first time being accused of misquoting.) The Times has since corrected the column:

An earlier version of this column incorrectly quoted a response by Chirlane McCray, the wife of Bill de Blasio to a question about Christine Quinn. The column has  been updated to reflect the full response.

In a statement, the de Blasio campaign said, "As the transcript makes clear, her actual comments were about Speaker Quinn’s unwillingness to listen to the people on education, and paid sick leave, and any suggestion otherwise is disingenuous and absurd ... It is wrong for Speaker Quinn and her campaign to distort and confuse with baseless attacks in order to distract from the Speaker's indefensible policy record."

A spokesperson for Quinn said, "We stand by our statement, as the essence of Ms. McCray's quote is the same." But Quinn may have to find more firm ground on which to attack de Blasio before tonight's debate.

Update: Dowd explained the mistake to Politico. "I screwed up. The coffee shop was so noisy, my tape recorder didn't pick up everything. I thought I had that one quote from her in my notes, but I garbled the end with a bit from her previous sentence," she said.

"The substance is the same, but the quote should be exact," Dowd added. "I've apologized to the DeBlasio and Quinn campaigns and I am going to buy some kind of noise-cancelling microphone for my recorder."

Update II: Still riding the wave at a press conference this afternoon, Quinn said, "I agree with Maureen that the sentiment is the same and that sentiment, to me, is really saddening and troubling," Politicker reports.

"I have a family. In my apartment, my wife and I, we’re a family," she said, her voice cracking slightly. "Our 10 nieces and nephews and grand nieces and nephews, we're a family. My father and I, Kim's dad. we’re a family. When I took care of my mother when she was dying, that's a family. Kim and I lost our mothers. People make personal decision, for medical reasons, all kinds of reasons, that go into why people do and don't have children. And no one should comment about that and make it a political issue."

Update III: Dowd's column has been corrected once more: "In addition, the column misstated the place where the interview occurred. It was the Good Stuff Diner, not the Good Times coffee shop."

This post has been updated throughout.