Bill de Blasio was born Warren Wilhelm, Jr. on May 8, 1961 in New York City and grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Shortly after graduating with a bachelor's degree from New York University in 1983, he legally changed his name to Warren de Blasio-Wilhelm, adding his mother's maiden name to his identity. In 2002 he changed his name for a second time and became Bill de Blasio.
Historian Ron Radosh describes de Blasio as: (a) "a far left radical whose ancestors are the New Left and the Communists"; and (b) "a bona fide red diaper baby" who, "like many of his generation ... kept his parents' ... pro-Communist politics not far from his heart." Both of de Blasio’s parents were far leftists—most likely, members of the Communist Party USA or some of its numerous front groups. His mother, Maria de Blasio, worked in the early 1940s at the Office of War Information—a U.S. government agency staffed largely by pro-Soviet leftists who depicted the USSR in a positive light.
In 1983, while he was still at NYU, Bill de Blasio toured parts of the Communist Soviet Union. This was a period of significant Cold War tension between the United States and the USSR, as the Soviets were attempting to permanently solidify their nuclear superiority over the U.S. Notably, de Blasio at one time served as an organizer with the anti-nuclear, anti-American organization Physicians for Social Responsibility.
De Blasio took his first job in 1984 with the NYC Department of Juvenile Justice. Three years later, having recently earned a master's degree at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, he was hired to work as a political organizer by the Quixote Center (QC), a Maryland-based, Catholic social-justice organization with Marxist leanings.
In 1988 de Blasio, an ardent supporter of Nicaragua's Marxist Sandinista government—which was backed by the Soviet Union, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, and Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization—joined a number of his QC colleagues in a ten-day trip to Nicaragua to help distribute food and medicine to people who had been affected by the violent revolution that was raging there. (The Reagan administration, meanwhile, was giving financial and military aid to the Contras, who were seeking to overthrow the Sandinista regime.)
Upon returning home from Nicaragua, de Blasio began working for a New York-based nonprofit organization dedicated to improving health care in Central America. Continuing, moreover, to support the Sandinistas in whatever way he could, he joined the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York, an organization that held meetings and fundraisers on their behalf. De Blasio also subscribed to the Sandinista party’s newspaper, Barricadda. He continues to speak admiringly of the Sandinistas to this day, lauding the “humble” and “really inspirational” blend of “youthful energy and idealism” that they brought to the task of “trying to figure out what would [make their society] work better.” “I’m very proud to have been deeply involved in a movement that rightfully thought U.S. policy toward Central America was wrong-headed and counter-productive and not in line with our values,” de Blasio said in September 2013. “I’m proud to have been involved in the effort that was challenging that.”
In 1989 de Blasio served as a volunteer coordinator for the NYC mayoral campaign of Democrat David Dinkins. Following Dinkins' victory, de Blasio became an aide in City Hall.
When asked in 1990 to describe his political views, de Blasio replied that he was an advocate of “democratic socialism.” In the mid-nineties, he served as executive director of the New York branch of the New Party, a pro-socialist, ACORN-affiliated entity to which Barack Obama likewise belonged.
In 1994 de Blasio managed New York Congressman Charles Rangel's re-election campaign. When de Blasio married former lesbian activist Chirlane McCray that same year, the couple honeymooned in Fidel Castro's Cuba, in violation of the U.S. ban on travel to that country.
In 1996 de Blasio ran the New York state operation for the Clinton-Gore re-election campaign.
From 1997-99 de Blasio served as the New York/New Jersey regional director of the Clinton administration's Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), where he served under HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo. During that period, said HUD inspector general Susan Gaffney, de Blasio's region lost approximately $23 million to scams perpetrated by public-housing officials, mortgage companies, and nonprofit groups that received grants from HUD. The New York Times, meanwhile, reported that in 1998-99, several people had defrauded HUD of $70 million in federally insured loans on more than 250 New York properties.
De Blasio left HUD in 1999 to become campaign manager for Hillary Clinton's 2000 U.S. Senate bid.
From 2001-09 de Blasio served on the New York City Council, representing District 39 in Brooklyn.
In 2002 de Blasio joined a number of fellow legislators—mostly from the City Council’s Black, Hispanic, and Asian Caucus—in a City Hall ceremony honoring Robert Mugabe, the openly anti-white, Marxist dictator of Zimbabwe.
In 2009 de Blasio was elected as New York City's third Public Advocate. His candidacy was supported by the SEIU, UNITE HERE!, and the pro-socialist Working Families Party.
In September 2009, when the community organization ACORN was engulfed in several major scandals involving voter-registration-fraud, embezzlement, money laundering, and racketeering, de Blasio wrote a letter to ACORN's leaders reaffirming his support for the organization, though noting that he was “troubled” by the recent revelations.
De Blasio was a vocal opponent of the January 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, which: (a) struck down a ban on corporations and labor unions using money from their general funds to produce and air campaign ads in races for congressional and presidential races, and (b) overturned a prohibition against corporations and unions airing campaign ads during the 30 days immediately preceding a primary or the 60 days preceding a general election.
In the fall of 2011 de Blasio expressed solidarity with the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street movement.
In January 2013 de Blasio announced his candidacy for Mayor of New York City. His campaign received endorsements from such notables as Alec Baldwin, Harry Belafonte, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean, Jerrold Nadler, Barack Obama, Sarah Jessica Parker, Susan Sarandon, Charles Schumer, George Soros, Kathleen Turner, and many others. After de Blasio won the Democratic primary that September, it was announced that he would also be the nominee on the Working Families Party line in the general election.
Patrick Gaspard, a former New Party staffer and Obama administration official with significant ties to ACORN, is a close friend of de Blasio and played a key role in shaping the latter's mayoral campaign.
In August 2013, de Blasio received the endorsement of the billionaire financier George Soros, who contributed the legal limit of $4,950 to the campaign. Soros’ relationship with de Blasio actually dated back to 2011, when Soros had given $400,000 to de Blasio’s Coalition for Accountability in Political Spending.
After de Blasio's primary victory in September 2013, longtime ACORN leader Bertha Lewis, who said that her political and ideological ties to de Blasio “go back a long time,” predicted a comeback for ACORN’s successor group in New York—New York Communities for Change—under a de Blasio administration. According to a Democratic insider, “ACORN’s long-range plan since 2001 was to elect de Blasio mayor. De Blasio was a big ACORN project.”
Several weeks before the mayoral election, de Blasio delivered an hour-long presentation to some of the city’s largest real-estate developers. Describing how he planned to govern, he stated flatly: “Everything you heard about me is true.... I am not a free-marketeer.... I believe in the heavy hand of government.”
In early October 2013, de Blasio made a campaign appearance at Al Sharpton's National Action Network in New York. In the course of his remarks, the mayoral candidate said “we do need to tax the wealthy ... to be able to fix our schools,” and added: “The voices that speak so passionately about addressing inequality head-on are in fact the greatest patriots in our nation, and none greater than Reverend Sharpton.”
Also during his campaign, de Blasio called for New York City to settle a $250 million lawsuit filed by five black males whom Sharpton had defended a quarter-century earlier, when they were convicted of the 1989 rape of a white female jogger in Central Park. That conviction, however, was overturned in 2002 when another man, Matias Reyes, confessed to having committed the crime alone. The New York Post provides some additional background on that case and the five men in question:
A panel headed by famed anti-corruption prosecutor Michael Armstrong concluded that the five had “more likely than not” participated in the jogger attack — and [had] certainly engaged in a violent series of “wilding” assaults in Central Park that night that left two other persons seriously injured.
Moreover, the trial jury knew that no DNA evidence connected them to the crime. Indeed, they’d also been told another unknown assailant had taken part in the attack. And Reyes, who was never questioned under oath before the convictions were tossed, reportedly told a fellow inmate that “a group of kids” had attacked the jogger before he came along.
The five, teenagers at the time, were convicted largely on the strength of their graphic and detailed confessions, which they later recanted but which were captured on videotape in the presence of their parents or guardians. Some repeated their confessions years later at parole hearings. And even Morgenthau [District Attorney Robert Morganthau, who vacated the convictions after Reyes's confession] himself concluded that, contrary to the five’s later allegations, there had been no coercion or misconduct in the way their confessions had been obtained.
On November 5, 2013, de Blasio was elected mayor of New York in a landslide victory that saw him capture 73% of all votes. At a post-election celebration, he told a group of supporters:
“My fellow New Yorkers, today, you spoke out loudly and clearly for a new direction for our city. Make no mistake: The people of this city have chosen a progressive path, and tonight we set forth on it, together.”
De Blasio's election was welcomed by the Communist Party USA publication People's World, which celebrated the "joy of a new day for New York"; stated that "the De Blasio victory has offered new hope that a national progressive shift on tackling the wealth and racial inequities plaguing our country's cities is in the making"; and noted that "the crisis of the cities is rooted in capitalism."
In the immediate aftermath of de Blasio's election victory, a George Soros-funded project known as Talking Transition sprang into action to promote the mayor-elect and to invite New Yorkers to communicate their ideas and concerns to him.
In one of his first speeches as mayor-elect, de Blasio again visited Al Sharpton's National Action Network and stated: “Every year Reverend Sharpton is becoming stronger as a leader, is reaching farther as a leader. You never have to wonder if he will remember where he came from, and he’ll be the first one up to stand up for justice. I gotta tell you guys, he’s a blessing for all of us. Let’s thank Reverend Sharpton.”
As he prepared to take the reins of New York City government, de Blasio made it clear that he rejected virtually every key element of welfare reform. For example:
- He derided the notion that able-bodied, childless welfare recipients should work (or at least look for work) in exchange for their benefits, as an “ideological hang-up” that blocked a “path out of poverty.”
- He vowed to “stop efforts” by city case workers “to divert individuals from accessing cash assistance” rather than seeking employment.
- He planned to use Obamacare outreach workers to enroll more New Yorkers on a multitude of government welfare programs.
- He stated that New York's total of 1.9 million food-stamp recipients—21% of the city's population—was at least 250,000 too low.
- He condemned eligibility-verification measures such as finger-imaging and in-person interviews of welfare applicants—practices designed to combat welfare fraud—as “stigmatizing.”
- Rejecting an ethos of personal responsibility and self-sufficiency, de Blasio's mayoral blueprint declared: “Providing basic income and food security to all New Yorkers [is] a key responsibility of government.”
Bill and Hillary Clinton both attended de Blasio's swearing-in ceremony as New York City mayor on January 1, 2014. Mr. Clinton, in fact, officially administered the oath-of-office to de Blasio, using a bible once owned by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
At de Blasio's inauguration, a prayer was delivered by prison chaplain Askia Muhammad, a former Nation of Islam member and a supporter of Louis Farrakhan. Also at the inaugural ceremony, Sanitation Department chaplain Fred Lucas Jr. prayed that "the plantation called New York City" might be transformed into "the city of God." New York Public Advocate Letitia James lamented that “we live in a gilded age of inequality where decrepit homeless shelters and housing developments stand in the neglected shadow of gleaming multimillion-dollar condos.” And de Blasio himself declared:
“When I said we would take dead aim at the tale of two cities, I meant it. And we will do it. I will honor the faith and trust you have placed in me. And we will give life to the hope of so many in our city. We will succeed ... as one city.... We will require big developers to build more affordable housing. We’ll fight to stem the tide of hospital closures. And we’ll expand community health centers into neighborhoods in need, so that New Yorkers see our city not as the exclusive domain of the 1 Percent, but a place where everyday people can afford to live, work and raise a family. We won’t wait. We’ll do it now.”
In one of his first moves as mayor, de Blasio appointed Zachary W. Carter as Corporation Counsel for the City of New York. Carter had previously represented Al Sharpton in his tax fraud case, and once moderated a panel titled “Closing Guantanamo: Terrorism and Civil Liberties in the Age of Obama” for Sharpton’s National Action Network.
At a U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting on January 23, 2014, de Blasio said that the U.S. was "in the midst of an inequality crisis." He added that because Washington, DC "has been gripped in a frustrating paralysis," Americans were looking "to the mayors of this country to address the root causes of inequality."
In his first State of the City speech on February 10, 2014, de Blasio spoke forcefully on behalf of the rights of illegal immigrants:
"We will protect the almost half-million undocumented New Yorkers, whose voices too often go unheard. We will reach out to all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status — issuing municipal ID cards available to all New Yorkers this year — so that no daughter or son of our city goes without bank accounts, leases, library cards ... simply because they lack identification. To all of my fellow New Yorkers who are undocumented, I say: New York City is your home too, and we will not force ANY of our residents to live their lives in the shadows."
On the night of February 10, 2014 (at 11:21 pm), Bishop Orlando Findlayter, a politically connected Brooklyn pastor who had played a key role in galvanizing black voters to support de Blasio's 2013 mayoral campaign, was driving in East Flatbush (Brooklyn) when he was pulled over by police for making a left turn without signaling. The officer at the scene then ran Findlayter's license number and discovered two outstanding warrants, issued nearly four weeks earlier, for failure to appear in court for prior arrests (which were made at public protest demonstrations). Thus Findlayter was arrested on the spot and was charged not only for the traffic violation, but also for driving without a license. Because his arrest came at an hour when it was too late to be arraigned, he should, by law, have spent the night in jail.
But Findlayter's clergy friends, upon learning of the incident, quickly reached out to Mayor de Blasio, who in turn called top police officials and arranged for the bishop to be released immediately. Just hours later, on the morning of February 15, Findlayter sat with de Blasio at the head table at a Bedford-Stuyvesant breakfast, where Al Sharpton was a guest speaker.
Ed Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevelent Association, subsequently objected to how the Findlayter matter had been handled: “If a guy has a warrant, you don’t let him go. Period. There is no ‘discretion.’ What if you release him [and] he drives a block, blows a red light and runs somebody over and kills him?... He [de Blasio] just confirmed that it really is a ‘tale of two cities’”—a reference to de Blasio’s oft-repeated campaign slogan.
On February 18, 2014, de Blasio publicly announced a new “Vision Zero” plan designed to eliminate traffic deaths in NYC by reducing traffic speeds within the city from 30 mph to 25 mph, and by cracking down aggressively on speeding by cab drivers. “The likelihood of a fatal crash, and this statistic is very powerful, the likelihood of a fatal crash drops significantly for speeds below 30 mph,” said de Blasio. “If we get those speeds down, it will be the difference between losing a life and saving a life.” “We’ve put a very bold plan before you,” the mayor emphasized, “and we want the public to know we’re holding ourselves to this standard—and we intend to achieve these goals.”
Just two days later, however, a CBS news crew filmed a two-car caravan that included de Blasio’s SUV (in which the mayor was riding in the front passenger seat) speeding through the streets of Queens, blowing through two stop signs without even tapping the brakes, and changing highway lanes without signaling.
At various points, de Blasio's car was clocked going 40 to 45 mph in a 30 mph zone, and 60 mph in a 45 mph zone. CBS News's Marcia Kramer reported that if a police officer had been following the mayor's car, and had issued tickets for each of the various infractions that had been committed, the lead driver would have racked up 13 points on his license—more than the 11 points necessary for a license suspension.
De Blasio's Political Philosophy
De Blasio, who owns two row houses in New York City worth over $1.1 million apiece, describes himself as “progressive” whose political views represent a blend of European social democracy, Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, and liberation theology; the latter was a Soviet KGB creation in the late 1960s, designed to infiltrate Christianity with Marxist principles. “I’m ... very deeply influenced by liberation theology, which I learned a lot about in the years I worked on Latin America,” says de Blasio.
For an overview of de Blasio's views on a variety of key political and social issues, click here.