Interviewer in viral Mayor Adams segment never thought he’d show: ‘They’re punking me’

Anyone who performs a Google search of Olayemi Olurin will discover three things about her: she is a former public defender for The Legal Aid Society, she has left-leaning politics, and — based on a two-hour video on her YouTube Channel — she believes Eric Adams is the “worst mayor in America.”

That’s why Olurin said she was surprised to learn last week that Adams would be joining her as a fellow guest on “The Breakfast Club,” a nationally syndicated show boasting 4 million listeners that one media expert has called “appointment listening for people of color.”

“They said to me, ‘Oh, you’re gonna be on with the mayor,’ and I’m like, ‘What?’” Olurin said in an interview with Gothamist, breaking into laughter. “I was like, ‘Oh, there’s no way. They’re punking me.’”

Not only was it not a joke – it was more than she could have asked for. What followed was a 50-minute verbal brawl that became a viral political sensation.

Reactions to the interview were like a Rorschach test of the city’s political divisions. Complex reported that the mayor had been “grilled” by an activist, while Hell Gate praised the interview for its “refreshingly adversarial tenor.” The NY Post described Olurin as a “woke defense attorney.

But whatever their background, seemingly everyone with an interest in city politics watched.

A clip of one exchange that Olurin posted on X garnered more than 3 million views.

The prosecutorial tone of the interview was set early on when Olurin contended that Adams’ rhetoric on crime, which she described as fear mongering, had made New Yorkers feel unsafe. Olurin’s delivery led host Charlamagne Tha God to remark, “Loosen up your tie, Mayor Adams. Gonna be a long day.”

The mayor fought back, challenging Olurin on her facts. He accused her of spreading “misinformation” after she cited news stories and a report by a federal monitor about unlawful stop-and-frisks of Black and Hispanic people.

In one claim, Olurin said the mayor “stood with” Gov. Kathy Hochul when she announced that she would be adding nearly 800 National Guard members to assist with bag checks in the subway system. Adams was not physically at the press conference but he did express support for her decision.

On social media, Olurin was applauded for delivering what many described as a “master class” in holding an elected official accountable.

Noah Schactman, the former editor-in-chief of Rolling Stone, called the appearance “the most important interview of Eric Adams in a long, long time.”

Supporters of the mayor and members of the NYPD, however, attacked Olurin.

“Dismissing the reality New Yorkers face as ‘fearmongering’ is not only ridiculous but expected from the wokesters living in a bubble, with the wool pulled over their eyes,” said Robert Holden, a City Councilmember who represents Queens, pointing to Olurin’s discussion with Adams about public safety in New York City.

NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell, who’s been on a media tour of his own in recent weeks — and came under fire for calling out the wrong judge in a social media post — derided Olurin as an activist lawyer who “epitomizes everything that true NYers are against.”

In a separate post, he challenged her to come meet him at the funeral of Jonathan Diller, the police officer killed while conducting a vehicle stop in Queens last week.

Among political experts, the biggest question was why Adams, who has sought to limit questions from reporters at press conferences, agreed to the interview in the first place.

Fabien Levy, the deputy mayor for communications, did not respond to questions about the mayor’s interview.

But the day before the interview aired, Levy promoted the conversation in response to a social media post by a reporter who said Adams was “sitting down with his number one hater.”

“Mayor Adams is committed to listening to different voices and leading our entire city, even those who disagree with him,” Levy wrote on X.

Neither host Charlamagne nor a producer on the show responded to a request for an interview.

“The mayor’s out of shape,” said Christina Greer, a political science professor, currently serving as a fellow at the City College of New York. “He hasn’t debated anyone in a long time.”

Greer said the interview forced the mayor to confront a paradox about his messaging on public safety – applauding the city as a safe haven while also endorsing the heavy staffing of public areas like the subway system with police.

“You can’t have it both ways,” Greer said. “Is this the safest city in America? Is this a dangerous hellscape that needs more police? Which one is it?”

Others noted that when the mayor appeared to question Olurin’s numbers — in which she said 97% of stops made by an anti-crime unit revived under Adams were of Black and Latino people — he risked dismissing a longstanding concern about racist policing tactics.

“These are stats that do really matter to voters, particularly the mayor’s base,” said Basil Smikle, a former Democratic strategist.

During the interview, Adams mentioned his oft repeated history as a police officer who protested racism within the NYPD, a response that Smikle likened to a “resumé point.”

He said Adams should never have gone on the show with Olurin.

“You’re the mayor of New York City,” Smikle said. “You don’t need to be on with anybody else.”

On Sunday, Olurin posted a Youtube video that sought to provide viewers with a fact check on some of the attacks she made against the mayor during their interview.

Despite everything, the two did exchange phone numbers. Olurin, who is of Bahamian and Nigerian descent, said the mayor later texted her to ask her what her name Olayemi means.

The lawyer, who took on clients unable to afford legal representation, replied, “Affluence befits me.”

All the same, Olurin said she wasn’t expecting a rematch with the mayor.

“I would be inclined to bet every dollar in my account right now,” she said. “We are never going to see the mayor do one of those again.”

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