Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel is facing blowback after he was overheard on a hot mic talking about his political aspirations in light of the George Floyd protests.

“If I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care,” Mr. Engel, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told Bronx Borough President Rubén Diaz after repeatedly asking to speak at a news conference on local vandalism Tuesday, according to audio captured by News 12.

“Don’t do that to me,” Mr. Diaz responded in the now-viral clip. “We’re not going to do this. We’re not politicizing. Everybody’s got a primary, you know? I’m sorry.”

Mr. Engel, who is serving his 16th congressional term, faces a competitive June 23 primary against middle school principal Jamaal Bowman, who slammed his statement as “disgusting” but unsurprising.

“It’s disgusting, it’s abhorrent, it’s unfortunate, and it’s disappointing, but it’s not surprising,” Mr. Bowman told Politico.

“It just exemplifies and shows everything we already knew,” he said. “To say ‘if I didn’t have a primary I wouldn’t care,’ it captures everything not just wrong with him but the political system.”

Mr. Engel clarified Tuesday afternoon that he wanted at that moment to convey that “I care deeply about what’s happening in this country.”

“In the context of running for reelection, I thought it was important for people to know where I stand, that’s why I asked to speak,” he said in a statement. “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.”

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