For much of his recent public life, Mayor Eric Adams has loudly proclaimed that he loves salads, beets, lentils and green smoothies and that his diet transformation has changed his life.
But on Monday, Mr Adams, New York’s first allegedly vegan mayor, was confronted with multiple accounts of his fish meal in public – and admitted he was ‘flawed’ and hadn’t always followed through a strictly vegan diet.
Instead, he said he tried his best to follow a plant-based approach.
“Here’s my message – the more plant-based meals you have, the healthier you’ll be,” Adams told reporters at an event announcing a program to help New Yorkers with chronic illnesses improve their health. food.
“Don’t worry about what’s on Mayor Adams’ plate,” he said. “Put these items on your plate.”
The controversy, called “FishGate” on social media, was partly a humorous diversion, but it also reinforced concerns that Mr Adams often stretches the truth. We wondered if he actually lived in a Brooklyn apartment; he failed to report rental income and blamed his accountant who lived in a homeless shelter; he acknowledged that a story he told in opening remarks about a neighbor’s dog messing up his yard didn’t happen to him.
At first, Mr Adams declined to say on Monday whether he ate fish or other animal products. He said “some people want to call me vegan” but pointed out that some vegans eat Oreo cookies, and he doesn’t. He seemed annoyed at being constantly asked about his diet.
“Those who are wondering what I eat, I’m over 18 and I know how to take care of myself,” he said. “If you haven’t noticed, look at the photos of yesteryear, then look at the photos of today. I wear my suits so much better than I did eight years ago.
The mayor’s love of vegetables was a central theme of his campaign, and he wrote a book two years ago about his health journey. In the book, he describes his plant-based diet as not eating any animal products or anything “that ever had a face or a mother.” He called his diet vegan to The New York Times in 2017, and a press release from his office last year quoted a nonprofit executive calling him “New York’s most famous vegan.”
But there were hints that Mr. Adams had flirted with pescetarianism, including a report in the New York Post over the summer that Mr. Adams ate grilled fish and spinach at Rao’s in East Harlem. His campaign insisted he eat eggplant parmigiana without the cheese.
And when Mr Adams faced questions about his residency last year, he gave reporters a tour of his Brooklyn apartment which revealed salmon in his fridge.
Then Politico reported on Saturday that Mr. Adams regularly dines fish at an Italian restaurant, Osteria La Baia, in Midtown Manhattan. A spokesman for the mayor, Maxwell Young, denied to Politico that Mr Adams eats fish.
On Monday, Mr. Adams sought to end the curiosity. He encouraged New Yorkers to “ignore the noise” and criticized the “food police”, who he described as reporters following him around restaurants. But at the end of the day, Mr. Adams sent another clarification that set the record straight.
“I want to be a role model for people who follow or aspire to follow a plant-based diet, but, as I said, I’m perfectly imperfect and have eaten fish at times,” he said. said in a statement.
Some elected officials knew of his flexibility. Diane Savino, a state senator who backed Mr. Adams for mayor, wrote on Twitter last July“It’s not vegan, it’s plant-based.”
The new administration of New York City Mayor Eric Adams
Ms Savino, who has described herself as an “avowed carnivore”, said in an interview that it was clear to her that Mr Adams was not 100% vegan based on his public comments.
“By quibbling about whether he eats Dover sole once in a while instead of constantly eating vegetables – the larger message is that if he can improve his health, so can everyone else,” said- she declared.
Mr. Adams often shares his story of adopting a plant-based diet, losing 35 pounds and reversing his diabetes. He wants to make healthy food a key part of his administration and last week announced a new “Vegan Friday” program in public schools.
The mayor posted a photo of a child happily dipping a fry in corn and beans as part of the new menus. But other reviews were more critical, including a photo showing a platter containing a not exactly vegan cheese and bean burrito and a banana.
Jessica Ramos, a state senator from Queens, said she was disappointed with the vegan offerings and posted a photo of what appeared to be a mixture of squash and mushrooms.
“The only real meal that some kids in our town can count on is what they get at school,” she said. “It hasn’t been thought through.”
As for Mr. Adams, he said he would not punish himself for deviations from a plant-based diet.
“If I choose to say I want to put cream in my tea, I don’t blame myself for that,” he said in a recent interview. “I don’t sit around and say, you know, ‘Oh, my God, I committed a cardinal sin.'”
Katie Glueck contributed reporting.