Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel was caught on a hot mic at a news conference on Tuesday following civil unrest in New York City, appearing to tell another speaker that he only wanted to speak because of his primary race.
In the video, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. appears to be telling Engel, the Democratic chairman of the influential House Foreign Affairs Committee, that he has a list of other people who need to speak regarding civil unrest that took place in the borough the previous day.
Diaz told Engel appreciates the congressman being there. Engel is then heard saying, “if I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care.”
Diaz quickly rebuked Engel, telling him, “Don’t do that to me. We’re not gonna do this. We’re not politicizing. Everybody’s got a primary, you know. I’m sorry.”
NY1 reporter Emily Ngo tweeted video of the incident Tuesday, and other local news outlets also played the clip. Engel faces a primary election on June 23.
Jamaal Bowman, a Democratic challenger to Engel, responded to the video on Twitter, saying the clip “is so incredibly painful to watch.”
“We need to be taking care of our communities right now – whether it’s election season or not,” Bowman said.
Engel, who has been in the House since 1989, said in a statement to CNN that he thought sharing his opinion was important.
“In the context of running for re-election, I thought it was important for people to know where I stand, that’s why I asked to speak,” he said. “Of course I care deeply about what’s happening in this country, that’s what I wanted to convey. I love the Bronx, grew up in the Bronx and lived here all my life. I would not have tried to impose on the Borough President if I didn’t think it was important.”
CNN’s Haley Byrd contributed to this report.