If Charlie Rangel is worried about getting tossed out of Congress, he's sure not showing it.
One day after delivering a half-hour-long rant on the House floor about his pending ethics trial, the New York congressman celebrated his 80th birthday with an over-the-top fundraising bash at Manhattan's Plaza Hotel Wednesday night. Several hundred people showed up to see Rangel feted by Dionne Warwick, Rev. Al Sharpton and a who's who of local politicians, including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Sen. Chuck Schumer, and state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who is running for governor.
Rangel's birthday party is an annual event, but this year's bash took on special significance as the 20-term congressman fights to save his political career amid several ethics charges, including allegations that he failed to pay taxes on a villa in the Dominican Republic and that he used rent-controlled apartments for campaign purposes. "I'm not going away," Rangel defiantly vowed on the House floor Tuesday, a rant that many Dems weren't so pleased about.
[Photos: See the latest of the care-free Rangel]
Still, none of that was mentioned on Wednesday night, as Rangel laughed and smiled and blew out candles on a giant birthday cake. "This damn sure ain't no funeral, is it?!" Rangel bellowed at one point, after Warwick serenaded him with her cheesy '80s ballad, "That's What Friends Are For." At one point, the congressman even pulled a Tom DeLay, dancing across the stage as the audience cheered. You can watch the video here:
Initially, Rangel's advisers were worried that no one would show up. As the New York Times' Michael Barbaro reports, guests received last-minute robocalls from Rangel reminding them about the party, as Democrats privately fretted about appearing on stage with the embattled lawmaker. But in the end, many of New York's highest-profile Dems turned out to back up their man. "He has fought for New York through thick and thin," Schumer declared, as a beaming Rangel stood nearby.
Only once did the guests have to confront an awkward reminder of Rangel's troubles. As former New York Mayor David Dinkins headed into the party, a heckler confronted him. "You know you are attending a party for a crook," the man yelled. In response, Dinkins silently gave him the middle finger.
(Photo: Getty Images/Chris Hondros)
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- former New York Mayor David Dinkins
- Andrew Cuomo
- New York Mayor
- Dionne Warwick