A couple years ago, New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg did a laughably stupid thing and named Cathie Black, a rich lady-about-town who ran a bunch of magazines and newspapers as president of Hearst, as his new schools chancellor. Since Black had no qualifications for the job aside from being a rich friend of Bloomberg's, some folks objected and Black resigned after 95 humiliating days. Back in 2010, former Gawker intern Sergio Hernandez thought it might be fun to read the email traffic between Black and City Hall prior to Black's appointment, so he filed a request under New York's Freedom of Information Law. Because Bloomberg is a secretive, entitled, arrogant prick, it took more than two years and a court battle to get them.
So what's in them? Almost nothing! Hernandez's request sought email traffic between Black and city officials while she was still employed by Hearst—emails that wouldn't be shielded by exemptions that cover some internal deliberative communications. They were unambiguously subject to New York's Freedom of Information Law. But Bloomberg denied the request, and then denied Hernandez's appeal. When Hernandez sued City Hall with the help of Yale Law School's Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic, Bloomberg defended the suit rather than finding a way to settle. When he lost, he appealed that decision. When he lost the appeal, he tried to appeal again—a highly unusual step for a routine FOIL case. Last night time ran out, and he released the records he fought so valiantly to protect.
There's basically nothing there. They are fairly routine strategy and planning emails. The most interesting exchanges show Black and and City Hall officials frantically trying to get public support from Oprah Winfrey. That's funny but not too surprising, since Winfrey's magazines are published by Hearst and the two women had worked together. And Oprah did indeed come out in her favor. Black's pitch to Oprah—an email attempt to put words in her mouth—is an exquisite document of shameless self-regard:
“Tremendous leadership, excellent manager, innovator, mother of two and cares about the future of all children,” Ms. Black wrote in an e-mail to Ms. Winfrey on Nov. 17, 2010. “Grace under pressure.” She ended the message: “I owe you big time.”
There's also an amusing moment when, as the embattled officials are trying to assemble a list of powerful women to endorse Black's candidacy, Black pitches her friend, reality TV star Ivanka Trump, as a potential candidate. "I think she would do [it]," Black wrote. Bloomberg's legislative director wrote back: "I would skip."
Why would Bloomberg fight tooth and nail—as far as he possibly could in the legal system, despite setback after setback—to keep these harmless, mildly amusing conversations secret? Who knows. Because he resents even the most trifling impositions on his authority. Because he's an imperial asshole. Because he could.
In a final insult to Hernandez, who had refused to let the issue drop for nearly three years, the city decided to blast the emails out to the media rather than hand them over to the man who had initially asked for them. So he didn't even get a momentary exclusive. Fuckers.CathieBlack (PDF)
[Image via Getty]