Tags: de blasio | groundhog | assassination | zoo

De Blasio Groundhog Assassination? Fuss Over Mayor's Fumble Won't Die

(YouTube video/Staten Island Advance)

By    |   Tuesday, 15 August 2017 11:00 AM

Questions about whether New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was responsible for a groundhog assassination in 2014 may finally be put to rest after a Freedom of Information Act request uncovered email exchanges between the mayor's office and members of the media.

The groundhog, named Charlotte, who stood in for "Chuck," wiggled its way out of the mayor's hands at the yearly event held at the Staten Island Zoo, according to MuckRock.

Seven days after the incident, Charlotte was found dead. At the time, the zoo said the tumble was not the cause of the groundhog's death. On Monday, MuckRock posted emails between the mayor’s then-press secretary, Phil Walzak, and members of the media related to the incident that became known as #Groundhoghazi in a flood of jokes online.

Walzak, who expressed appreciation for the "new suffix to describe political scandal," saying "everything-gate was so tired and overused," attempted to clear de Blasio of responsibility for the death by objecting to descriptions that the mayor "dropped" the animal.

"Oh please. How can a reasonable, rational viewer watch that and ignore the squirming and writhing of the animal as it is placed into the mayor's hands?" Walzak wrote to one reporter.

He also objected to comparisons of dropping a squirming baby.

"That's a flawed and specious analogy," the press secretary wrote. "Babies aren't groundhogs – they move and act differently."

Walzak summarized the issue in one email, writing, "The only thing I care abt is people saying mayor killed groundhog . . . which is not true!” the New York Post noted.

Associated Press reporter Jonathan Lemire agreed to drop the offending verb, writing, "I asked for the zoo statement, haven't received it yet. And, yes, while BDB certainly didn't hang onto the thing, it did squirm away. I won't use 'dropped.'

"I'm just going to do a light, short story about the incident and the resulting hoopla on Twitter, etc. So you guys weren't notified of the death? When did you find out? Did you know it wasn't Chuck? And will the mayor pay attending the funeral? (had to)."

In a message to another reporter, Walzak quipped, "our little secret, between you and me? We were REALLY trying to kill Staten Island Chuck. But since the zoo duplicitously swapped out SI Chuck for body double SI Charlotte, our work remains incomplete…"

The following year, the zoo changed the ceremony to keep the groundhog in a plexiglass case, where it would avoid being handled by the mayor, The Associated Press noted.

While the groundhog controversy may finally be laid to rest, animosity between the rodents and city hall didn't start with de Blasio. A few years prior to Charlotte's fall, video captured former mayor Michael Bloomberg getting bitten by Chuck during the Groundhog Day event.

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Questions about whether New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was responsible for a groundhog assassination in 2014 may finally be put to rest after a Freedom of Information Act request uncovered email exchanges between the mayor's office and members of the media.
de blasio, groundhog, assassination, zoo
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2017-00-15
Tuesday, 15 August 2017 11:00 AM
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