Are politicians unscrupulous, money-hungry backslappers who would treat even the worst dictator like a visiting dignitary if they thought it might land them a nice photo-op and some municipal donations that they could tout in their campaign literature? Yes, according to a mischievous prank. Islom Karimov is the "President" of Uzbekistan, by virtue of vote fraud, repression, "disappearing" of dissidents, and other fun tactics. So Cityfile posed as an Uzbekistani official to see how many New York politicians would be willing to set up a meeting with Karimov. A lot, it turns out!
We sent out about 15 letters in total. Seven of the 15 followed up to schedule a meeting. Who responded exactly? A rep from City Councilman John Liu's office was so excited that she left both her office and cell phone numbers and promised that our "delegation" would be treated to a tour of City Hall. A rep from Alan Gerson's office was equally enthusiastic, calling three times in three days to leave increasingly insistent messages about locking in a date. We heard from State Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver's office in Albany, who said Silver would be happy to meet with us, but then left another message a few days later to explain that, unfortunately, Silver would be out of town the days we proposed. Councilmember Daniel Garodnick gave us a yes. So did State Assemblyman Dov Hikind and Councilmember David Yassky. Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum's deputy chief-of-staff replied by email and said Gotbaum would be "honored" to meet with the President.