On Topic Only (Updated)

Republican mayoral candidate Nicole Malliotakis today adopted a move favored by Mayor de Blasio, seeking to limit press questions to “on topic” only.  At a truncated Columbus Circle press conference this afternoon Malliotakis sought to restrict questions to her chosen two topics; Mayor de Blasio’s unclear position on removal of the statue of Christopher Columbus and his, in her view, insufficient addressing of pay-to-play allegations.

Yesterday rival candidate Bo Dietl issued a statement referring to Malliotakis as a “criminal,” alleging that her campaign submitted petitions to the Board of Elections with a false certification on the number of signatures included on those petitions.  (The petitions are for an additional, self-created ballot line, “Fix Transit Now.”)  When I asked Malliotakis about that allegation today she responded with a mashup of replies, first saying that she would “stay on topic today,” then dismissing Dietl’s assertion as “outrageous” and “ridiculous” and ending by saying “there’s no comment on that … it’s frivolous” as her staffer moved to end the press conference.  She included a denial of the circumstances surrounding the filing of those petitions, however, saying “I don’t honestly, I don’t know those petitions were filed, and if we didn’t have a sufficient number then they were kicked off.”

The attempted “on-topic” restriction was unusual for Malliotakis.  She’s generally open to questions, holding fairly lengthy press conferences without topic limits.  She has also been quite accommodating to me throughout her campaign, regularly answering questions on-camera without restriction.  It’s unclear why she sought a topic restriction today, including whether it was specifically to avoid discussing the Dietl allegations.