Independent mayoral candidate Bo Dietl on Monday, in the course of being endorsed for mayor by a Republican City Council member, accused Mayor Bill de Blasio of changing his name in a cynical ploy to court Jewish voters and of potentially lacking a heart.
“He’s very cold. He’s very calculating,” Dietl said of de Blasio, outside City Hall with Queens Councilman Eric Ulrich by his side.
When a reporter asked Dietl about an anti-Semitic City Council candidate running in Upper Manhattan, Dietl said, “Anyone who uses any anti-Semitic tones, I’m against.” Noting his ex-wife, children and grandchildren are Jewish, he added, “I’ve got Jewish in me.”
Then, turning his focus to de Blasio, Dietl added, “Hmm. What was his real name? Warren Wilhelm? Why did he change it? My first question at my first debate: Why did you change your name from Warren Wilhelm? I’m Dietl, Bo Dietl. Warren Wilhelm, did he change it? That’s a good question. I want my Jewish friends to think — and you saw how he came against Israel. He came against Israel. I support Israel. He doesn’t support Israel.”
When told of Dietl’s comments, de Blasio campaign spokesman Dan Levitan said in a statement, “Bill de Blasio is a strong supporter of Israel and any suggestion otherwise is silly and offensive.”
De Blasio was born Warren Wilhelm, Jr., named after his father. In 1983, after graduating New York University, he took his mother’s maiden name, de Blasio, having become estranged from his father. Over the years, he began calling himself William, instead of Warren, and formally changed his name ahead of his 2001 race for City Council.
When asked why he thought de Blasio changed his name, Dietl replied, “Because I think he wanted to run for mayor of New York and not have the idea that he was German.”
When asked why he thought not having a German name was preferable to voters, Dietl replied, “Because he might have a negative Jewish vote against him. That’s my feeling. Why would you change your name? Aren’t you proud of your name? I’m proud of my name. I don’t want to change it.”
Dietl, though, has informally changed his first name. His given first name is Richard, but he uses “Beau” for the private investigation firm he runs, and now, as a television personality and candidate, he uses “Bo.” He told reporters that change is cosmetic, and his last name has not changed.
Dietl also questioned whether de Blasio has “a heart” because he has never seen the mayor cry.
“He’s like a robot. I’d like to cut him open and see if he has a heart. I don’t think the man has a heart. I don’t see the man ever cry.”
In his remarks endorsing Dietl, Ulrich, who flirted with a mayoral run himself, tried focusing attention away from national issues. The councilman called the mayor’s race a referendum on de Blasio and not on President Donald Trump, whom the mayor has repeatedly talked about in public appearances and fund-raising pitches.
Dietl, who voted for and donated to Trump, told reporters, “I’m not Donald Trump. And anyone who compares me, I really feel hurt in my heart.”
But Dietl said he could work with Trump as mayor. “I’ll go on my knees if I have to and I’ll say, ‘Donald, New York needs you. New York needs money for the police,” he said.
Asked about going on his knees rather than standing up to Trump, who lost New York City handily to Democrat Hillary Clinton, Dietl said he was speaking metaphorically and is just interested in finding a practical way to deal with a federal administration that will be in place for the next four years.
Dietl also said he could successfully reach a variety of New Yorkers, in part because of his genetic background.
Citing the results of a genetic test, he told reporters, “I got two percent Jew, two percent African, I got eight percent Middle Eastern, I got everything in me. I’m part black, I’m part Middle Eastern.”
Dietl also embraced a de Blasio policy priority, saying he supported charging a fee on the use of disposable bags, a City Council effort that has been blocked in Albany. He also said he favors using City funds to pay for reduced transit fares for low-income New Yorkers, which City Council members support but de Blasio opposes, arguing it’s a decision for the state.
Ulrich told reporters Dietl is the only person who can defeat de Blasio in November, arguing the city’s Republican party leaders should allow Dietl to run in their primary.
“He can put together a broad coalition of support that would be required to win a race, such as this,” Ulrich said.
He later added, “Why wouldn’t you let Bo Dietl run in the primary anyway, when he has so much support in Republican circles and Republican parts of the city?”
There have been no recent public polls on how Dietl would fare among Republicans or against the mayor, however. But Dietl will have a chance to make his case to party officials later this week, when the Manhattan GOP meets to screen candidates, Dietl included.