Charlie Rangel's Unpleasant 80th-Birthday Party

"It was the antithesis of Chelsea Clinton's wedding"

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There were a lot of awkward moments at Charlie Rangel's birthday party Wednesday night. The 80-year-old Harlem Democrat has been formally charged with three ethics violations and attendees did their best to avoid the subject. Still, the lavish affair's turnout was impressive, with appearances from A-list New Yorkers such as Governor David Paterson, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Senator Charles Schumer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. The event doubled as a fund-raiser for the embattled congressman and lots of press gained access. Here's a mix of commentary from journalists and attendees during and after the event:

  • It Started Off With a Bang, reports Michael Barbaro at The New York Times:
About 5:45 p.m. Wednesday, as guests began strolling in... former Mayor David N. Dinkins turned to confront a heckler. “You know you are attending a party for a crook,” the man yelled. At that, Mr. Dinkins, a paragon of statesmanship and dignity, raised his middle finger at the man, displaying it for all to see, according to witnesses, whose accounts were confirmed by the former mayor.
  • The Night's Most Ironic Moment  Reporter Walter Shapiro describes the scene:
Jerry Nadler, whose Manhattan congressional district borders Rangel's, was the only speaker who had the bravery (or foolhardiness) to actually refer to the ethics committee charges. "I read all the report," Nadler said before offering his personal verdict, "If this were a court of law, most of this would be thrown out -- it wouldn't stand up." That was enough to prompt loud cheers from the crowd at the Plaza. But what no one seems to have noticed (and after nearly two hours of oratory, few were listening that closely), Nadler dismissed most but not all of the charges against Rangel, implying that some of the accusations have merit.
  • Al Sharpton Came Out Swinging At one point in the night, Sharpton grabbed the microphone and turned towards the press: "I want to address the media... Don't turn your cameras off. Don't put your notepads down... You have started and executed a political execution, but stay tuned for the political resurrection."
  • Rangel's Supporters Were Brave to Show Up, says Joe Scarborough on MSNBC: "That was very touching because... when somebody gets in trouble in politics, everybody scatters so I've got respect for the people that showed up. Regardless of the fact that he's guilty as hell."

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  • What a Guy, writes JammieWearingFool: "Nice to see this crook shaking people down to the very end. Under the guise of celebrating his 80th birthday, which actually occurred a couple of months ago, the corrupt Democrat hack used the occasion last night to glom some money for his legal defense and re-election."
  • 'It Was the Antithesis of Chelsea Clinton's Wedding,' writes Walter Shapiro: "A glittering social event on the New York political calendar that many prominent politicians wished (very privately) they did not have to attend and hoped (very secretly) would somehow be canceled."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.