The 81-year-old Rangel was fully possessed of his raspy voice and general humor, despite a back injury that hasn’t fully healed. The Congressman did not stand at all during the entire public appearance.
Today’s press conference, almost three months in advance of a June 26th Democratic congressional primary in which he is expected to face a serious challenge from Dominican-American State Sen. Adriano Espaillat, was designed to help allay fears about his physical well-being.
Rangel, in a red tie and white shirt cuffs monogrammed with the initials “CBR,” sat in a swivel chair in front of a podium during the small business seminar, and rifled through a binder with a U.S. Presidential seal on it.
For the press conference, his aides placed a table in front of his chair for reporters’ microphones, ensuring the Congressman would not have to stand to take questions.
“I’ll be out there,” Rangel said, in response to questions about how his health would impact the campaign.
Doctors, he implied, “they have their own timetable.”
“And they had this darn thing that was supposed to be over. What it is, is I’ve never had a backache in my life, but if you’re not nice to me I’ll put you on a list and wish you one. Because what happened was, at a certain age, all of us have the cartridge(sic) that separates the spinal disc and they wear out,” Rangel said.
“Well, I had no idea, and had no pain coming from that, but one of the viruses found out it was vulnerable and bang! It went in there, and we thought we’d gotten it all out, so they went back in there and so now, I’m all beaten up on by antibiotics. But no, they’re certain that I’ll be up and around and enjoying the campaign.”
Rangel’s mention of a virus gives context to what had previously been reported as an injury sustained while moving furniture, but a campaign spokesman couldn’t say exactly what Rangel had been diagnosed with or what virus he’d contracted.
Health questions dispensed with, Rangel moved on to Espaillat. The senator’s primary challenge was understandable, Rangel said.
“In terms of the campaign, well, I guess if you really want to set out as to what you think is wrong with government and you have a case to be made, then, every two years that what the elections are all about,” he said, describing Espaillat’s candidacy as an inevitable side effect of the democratic process.
“I certainly have to be sympathetic to any person or group of people that believe that their particular culture, language or background should be in the Congress, and the City Council and I’ve always supported that because that’s what America is all about,” he said.
A reporter asked, “On the campaign some people see this as the first time you have a pretty strong opponent in the form of Adriano Espaillat. Is that a fair assessment?”
“Yes it is.” Rangel said.
“You think he’s pretty strong?” the reporter asked.
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