With the death of New York City’s former Mayor Ed Koch at the age of 88 last week, a decades-long feud between him and journalist Jimmy Breslin also comes to an end.
Denis Hamill of the New York Daily News reports on the feud that began in 1986 when Koch, on a late night talk show, said that he intended to run for three more terms as mayor and then “give the eulogy at Jimmy Breslin’s funeral.”
Breslin responded in a column soon after saying, “I do not think that a man on the public payroll should be allowed to say things like this so easily.”
To which Koch responded, “It was not intended to be anything else but funny. If it wasn’t funny, it’s my fault. Or maybe he’s lost his sense of humor.”
With Koch’s death last week, it appears Breslin is having the last laugh.
In his autobiography ‘Citizen Koch,’ Koch had slammed Breslin as “one of the most intellectually dishonest reporters in the country.” Koch was criticized by Breslin during his coverage of the trouble-plagued City Hall during the Parking Violations Bureau scandal.
On December 31, 1989, Breslin wrote of Koch’s mayoral legacy, “Thus far there have been 20,000 murders while Ed Koch has been mayor. This is the one most ghastly figure in the history of American cities and shows clearly that Koch has been a hideous figure, a man who laughs in the morgue.”
The feuding never really fully subsided. The writer of the Daily News article, Denis Hamill, recalls how he ran into Koch about five years ago. When Hamil asked Koch “How’m I doing?” Koch laughed, shook hands, and said, “Not as good as me. I’m having a great life. And I’m still going to outlive your friend Jimmy Breslin.”
Hamill spoke with Breslin in the wake of Koch’s death last week. “When asked what he felt about Koch wanting to outlive him, Breslin told me, “He shouldn’t have said something like that. I wished him better than that.””
Hamil asked Breslin if he had kept in touch with Koch at all over the years, to which Breslin responded, “With him? Never. For what? I’m sad that he died. That’s it. Goodbye.”
The history behind “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”