Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, known for his disciplined campaign style and careful approach to governing, celebrated the Kings’ Stanley Cup victory Monday by letting an obscenity fly on live television.
But Garcetti, unlike many politicians heard cussing publicly, did not follow up with a hastily issued apology. Instead, his dropping of the F-bomb at a Staples Center rally for the hockey team had all the look of a premeditated publicity salvo, one quickly followed by a flurry of responses on social media.
Garcetti, who was wearing a Kings jersey and carrying a bottle of Bud Light, set up the joke for the audience at the Kings celebration, telling them that there are two long-standing rules for politicians: “They say never, ever be pictured with a drink in your hand and never swear. But this is a big"— he then raised his bottle and uttered a seven-letter obscenity — “day.”
The audience roared. Players stood up to applaud. Soon afterward, Garcetti had similar, PG-rated messages on Facebook and his official Twitter feed. “There are a few rules in politics, one is never swear, but this is a BFD. @ericgarcetti welcomes the #StanleyCup to LA.”
Outside Staples Center and L.A. Live, the remarks were a hit. Lake Forest resident Jeff Ottinger, who attended Monday’s rally, said Garcetti’s brief and potent remarks undercut Los Angeles’ reputation as “snobby and stuck-up.” “I think a lot of times politicians are uppity and stuffy and for him to actually be a fan is cool,” he said.
“It makes me have much more respect for him,” said Jason Werntz, 45, of Burbank.
Armand Lebrilla, who backed Garcetti’s opponent in last year’s election, watched the mayor’s remarks on video and concluded that the moment was “definitely rehearsed,” down to the empty beer bottle. His take? “It was hilarious.”
“He was trying to connect with the fans — and he did,” said Lebrilla, 27, who works in finance.
Still, not everyone was impressed. Former Fox Sports Radio announcer Vince DeLisi called the mayor’s language immature and “classless.” Younger Angelenos may have taken Garcetti’s language in stride, but older and more established residents “probably cringed,” he said.
“Politicians have to understand that they’re not supposed to be rock stars,” the Burbank resident said. “They’re supposed to be leaders. If you want to be a rock star, pick up that guitar and start singing.”
Critics also weighed in on the mayor’s Facebook page, saying that he had set a bad example for children.
Garcetti spokesman Jeff Millman would not say when, or how far in advance, the mayor decided to use the obscenity. Lawmakers at City Hall mostly steered clear of the debate over Garcetti’s salty language.
Councilman Mike Bonin, pausing to choose his words carefully, said he agreed with the mayor’s vivid description of the day. After The Times showed Councilman Paul Krekorian the video, he declined to comment and walked away. “It’s always a pleasure,” he added.
Los Angeles mayors are no strangers to cursing, but usually only in private conversations, said Jaime Regalado, emeritus professor of political science at Cal State L.A. Garcetti’s use of a four-letter word — in this case in a seven-letter format — was in some ways “a bold stroke,” Regalado said.
Since Garcetti took office last year, some have called for him to be a bit more like his predecessor, former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who was skilled at grabbing media attention during his eight years in office.
Garcetti has been “criticized for not being out there, not seeking out the media, not making bold statements,” Regalado said. “Well, he made a bold statement.”